By Garrett Kincaid | Exclusive content for subscribers of The Intronaut
- Ignite Introspection
- What Is It?
- Why Introspection Is for You
- A 3-Part, Iterative Process
- 1. Evaluate Who You Are
- 2. Identify Who You Would Ideally Be
- 3. Determine What You Must Do to Approach Your Ideal-Self
- A Resolution?
- The Framework for Your First Steps
- My Best Writing
Introspection is the most accessible, powerful method we have for finding clarity and approaching truth. Here, I will define introspection, explain why it is useful, and offer a framework to help you develop your own practice.
What Is It?
Introspection is the practice of asking yourself challenging questions and doing your best to give honest answers.
The process goes something like this:
- What is it now?
- What could it be?
- How must it change to approach what it could be?
You can interrogate yourself about any part of life using this series of questions as a model. Take a friendship, for instance.
- What are the strengths of this relationship? The weaknesses? Is it healthy, equitable, and respectful?
- What do I wish were different? What would be the ideal characteristics of our friendship?
- How could my friend and I change show we interact to improve our friendship?
The value of this self-interrogation process is in the insights it helps you uncover. You learn more about who you are and about who you’d like to become.
To practice introspection, all you need is you. Ask yourself a single, important question to get the process started. You’ll be surprised by the answers you already have within you.
By questioning yourself, you’re admitting that you aren’t perfect — that you don’t have all he answers. And that can be painful. But perfect (the noun) doesn’t exist. Introspection is about perfecting yourself (the verb) — which is a never-ending process. The only way to improve is to first acknowledge that there’s room for improvement.
Introspection can sting, scratch, and burn, but those are the pains of honesty, awareness, and authenticity. They are pains worth enduring.
Why Introspection Is for You
It’s important to note that introspection is not remedial. It’s not some self-administered treatment to cure our flaws. Rather, it’s a method available to everyone for learning about themselves — for improving confidence and clarity and for finding purpose and meaning.
I know that introspection is for me because, by making it a habit of it, I have developed a greater sense of clarity about what I value, what I believe, and who I hope to become.
Introspection is for people who want to:
- Aim for an ideal, knowing it is unattainable;
- Become the best version of themselves, for themselves and for others;
- Assume accountability and take agency over their lives;
- Imbue life with meaning.
Introspection isn’t just for me. It’s for you, too. Introspection is for anyone who wants to live with clarity.
A 3-Part, Iterative Process
1. Evaluate Who You Are
This is your entry point — the spark of the flame of introspection. Self-evaluation is the most painful part. It’s when you are most vulnerable. You have to acknowledge your faults, blindspots, and shortcomings. But, like most things in life, there’re great benefits on the other side of that pain.
Evaluating yourself is not the same as judging or degrading yourself. Look at it as a way to identify growth opportunities.
It’s easy to live without evaluating ourselves — to live an unexamined life. It’s our default state to distract ourselves, rationalize our mistakes, shift blame, and shirk responsibility. That’s why introspection requires intentional, conscious, purposeful effort.
A thorough self-evaluation will prompt many questions.
- What do I value?
- What do I regret?
- What do I wish I were capable of?
The next part of introspection is when you start working toward answers.
2. Identify Who You Would Ideally Be
It’s time to exercise one of our unique human abilities — what we too often confine to sleep: dreaming. I’m not talking about setting a goal to own some material thing or reaching a quantifiable benchmark. Instead, dream up a concept — an ideal. Dream up your ideal-self.
This process won’t involve Zillow searches or scrolling through the profiles of your favorite Instagram influencers. This concept of your ideal-self is narrative, qualitative, and immaterial. As a novelist weaves together values, experiences, mannerisms, and behavior to develop a character, breathe life into your ideal-self.
Identify an approachable yet unattainable version of yourself. Dream your ideal-self as someone you know how to emulate but will never quite become — an approachable yet unattainable you.
Here’re some questions to help:
- What would be the ideal caliber of my character?
- Would I be honest, empathetic, respectful? In what circumstances, if any, would I be dishonest?
- What would I fight for? What conflicts would I avoid?
- What content would fill my ideal day?
- What pursuits would I find meaningful, and how would I pursue them?
- How would my relationships be? Why would they be successful?
- In what portion would I serve myself and in what portion would I serve others?
Once you have some answers, daydream that you’re on a walk with your ideal-self. Conjure this dream-person in front of you. In this way, become acquainted with this version of you. Identify who you would ideally be. How does it feel to walk beside that version of you?
Once you feel acquainted with the dreamed-up version of you, cast him/her to the horizon. Return from your dream of self-exploration, reflect on it, then start your journey toward the unattainable horizon — toward your ideal-self.
3. Determine What You Must Do to Approach Your Ideal-Self
The immediate danger of identifying an ideal is fixating on how far you are from it. Try to avoid that. Don’t measure yourself by your displacement but by your direction. It doesn’t matter how far you are from where you want to go. All that matters is whether you’re moving in the right direction.
- How can I orient myself toward my ideal-self?
- What’s one step I can take now in that direction?
Here’s a personal example. I’ve identified my ideal-self as someone who is be able to articulate his thoughts so that others understand them as he does. Right now, to take one step in that direction, I could pick up a well-written book or sit down to write. I could consume or craft ideas to improve how well I express myself.
By identifying the ideal, you become motivated to work toward it. It makes it clear that what you decide to do is for the sake of self-improvement. Reading and writing, for instance, become more purposeful and meaningful because they’re helping me approach my unattainable ideal.
Once you identify your ideal-self, determine what you can do right now to emulate that version of you.
Even though I’ve been talking about finding answers, most of the questions you ask yourself will lead you to new, more challenging questions. You won’t find THE answer, and that’s okay. Neither will I.
Your questions will keep changing along with your answers. That’s why introspection must be a practice — something you return to iterate.
You may think that, at some point, you will become your ideal-self and complete the project of self-improvement. If you’re thinking that way, I have a question for you: Would your ideal-self really claim to be perfect? Or would the ideal you continue the work of perfecting?
When you stagnate, ignite the flame of introspection again. Return to your practice. Honestly evaluate yourself and dream of a loftier, further ideal.
You can’t have too many or too frequent iterations of this three-part process. That being said, there are good and bad times for introspection. As you develop your practice, be sure to dedicate time and space for it. Don’t let it consume your every waking thought. Reflecting in the moment takes you out of the moment. At the same time, don’t let your practice lapse. You could fall into our default state of living an unexamined life.
Introspection is accessible, powerful, and the best method we have to find clarity and approach truth in life. If I haven’t convinced you, I suggest you try it for yourself. Below is a framework to help you get started.
The Framework for Your First Steps
It’s hard to know what to ask yourself. Even if you have questions, you may not know how work through them. That’s why you need prompts and mediums for introspection. And, to stay motivated through this challenging process, it’s important to understand the benefits of developing your practice.
There can be no universal program for introspection, only prompts. Here are some of the things that inspire me to interrogate myself:
- Consciously consuming media— books, movies, TV series, plays, music, etc.
- Observing and addressing my thoughts and feelings
- Conversations, especially ones that are open, vulnerable, contentious, challenging, or uncomfortable
Once you have a question, find a medium through which you can explore it. Here are some suggestions:
- Creative expression — writing, painting, singing, crafting, etc.
- Interpersonal connection — vulnerable group or one-on-one discussions (i.e., therapy)
- Active reflection — a workout/walk without headphones, journaling, oral storytelling, etc.
If you cultivate a practice of introspection, you can expect:
- Clarity of thought — an awareness of how you think and feel
- A coherent structure of values and beliefs — a personal philosophy
- Acceptance of and detachment from what you can’t change and what you don’t value
My main prompt is reading philosophy, and my main medium is writing. But everyone’s practice will be different. Find your own ways of asking and answering questions so that you may develop a practice of introspection that leads to you toward your ideal-self.
I wish you a safe and fruitful voyage through the world within you. Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter.