When you’re balancing work, school, family, and a social life, it can sometimes feel difficult and unimportant to make time for yourself. For graduate students, it can feel like your coursework is taking over, leading to stress and test anxiety.
It’s important to address these feelings when they come up, so they don’t progress into burnout. Check in with yourself on a regular basis so you can understand the root of your discomfort and remind yourself of your strengths, values, and goals. Practicing self-reflection and asking self-discovery questions can be an empowering way to challenge your beliefs, gain clarity on your life’s path, and apply creative solutions to the challenges you face.
Benefits of Self-Reflection
Self-reflection means taking the time to look both more deeply into yourself—and more broadly at the external forces that are shaping your life. Practicing self-reflection takes honesty and discipline. Meditation, journal writing, and contemplative thought are all powerful tools for self-reflection. Cultivate the practice that resonates for you. Self-reflection can help you:
- Develop emotional intelligence
- Increase your confidence
- Strengthen your integrity
- Start communicating more clearly
- Strengthen your relationships
- Learn to make sounder decisions
- Gain insight about optimizing your skillset
Weekly Self-Discovery Questions
To help spark your practice of self-reflection, we’ve put together a list of 57 self-discovery questions to ask yourself. Start with one each day and, after a couple of weeks, increase this to 10 to 15 per week. You can explore answers in a journal, in your head, or by filling out the blanks in the printables below.
1. What are three of my most cherished values?
2. What is my purpose in life?
3. What is my personality type?
4. Did I make time for myself this week?
5. Am I making time for my social life?
6. What scares me the most right now?
7. What is something I find inspiring?
8. What is something that brings me joy?
9. When is the last time I gave back to others?
10. What matters to me most right now?
11. What’s something I would like to do more of and why?
12. What’s something I would like to do less of and why?
13. What three words describe me best?
14. What keeps me awake at night?
15. How important is my physical health to me?
16. How important is my mental health to me?
17. Have I been holding myself back in any way?
18. What obstacles get in the way of my happiness?
19. What are my greatest gifts?
20. What could I do to be happier?
21. What do I love about my classes?
22. What do I hate about my classes?
23. What assignments am I putting off?
24. What is making me feel down about school?
25. What is my biggest accomplishment in school?
26. What is my biggest challenge at school right now?
27. What am I doing to overcome these challenges?
28. What motivates me to go to school?
29. Am I involved in school organizations?
30. Do I find myself feeling envious of my peers?
31. How do I de-stress at school?
32. What distracts me the most from homework?
33. How do I measure my success at school?
34. What are the positives about my job?
35. What about my job causes stress?
36. What is my biggest accomplishment at work?
37. Do I feel fulfilled at work?
38. Do I feel challenged at work?
39. Have I made any mistakes at work lately—and how did I learn from them?
40. Who inspires me in my career?
41. Do I feel comfortable standing up for myself at work?
42. Do I feel seen and heard at work?
43. What are some skills I need to improve on?
44. What is my definition of success?
45. How do I define work-life balance?
46. Do I consider my work to be purposeful?
47. If I didn’t get paid, would I still enjoy my job?
48. Whom do I go to when I need advice?
49. How am I feeling in my family life?
50. What makes me happiest about my family?
51. Are there certain family members who drain my energy?
52. Did a family member make me smile this week and why?
53. Am I holding grudges against a family member? If so, why?
54. What is my favorite memory about my family?
55. Do I listen to my family more than myself?
56. What am I thankful for about my family?
57. Which family member do I admire most?
In the same way that adding laughter to your life can reduce stress, checking in with yourself each week can strengthen your emotional intelligence and provide clarity. Graduate students are always on a journey to self-discovery—finding a work-life balance and understanding your career path and purpose. It’s a great practice to ask yourself the big questions. Download these printable self-discovery questions and keep them in your planner or hang them up in your home office for inspiration.
Happier Human, “51 Self-Discovery Questions to Ask Yourself While Journaling,” Nov. 13, 2019: www.happierhuman.com/self-discovery-questions/.
Laurel Halloran, “The Value of Self-Reflection,” The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, Volume 12, Issue 10, e437–438: https://www.npjournal.org/article/S1555-4155(16)30504-9/abstract.
Giselle Kovary, “The Value of Self-Reflection,” N-Gen, Dec. 17, 2015: www.ngenperformance.com/blog/leadership-2/the-value-of-self-reflection.
Anna Sutton et al., “A Longitudinal, Mixed Method Evaluation of Self-Awareness Training in the Workplace,” European Journal of Training and Development, Aug. 3, 2015: www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/EJTD-04-2015-0031/full/html?journalCode=ejtd.
Clive Fletcher and Caroline Bailey, “Assessing Self‐Awareness: Some Issues and Methods,” Journal of Managerial Psychology, Aug. 1, 2003, www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/02683940310484008/full/html.
D. Scott Ridley et al., “Self-Regulated Learning: The Interactive Influence of Metacognitive Awareness and Goal-Setting,” The Journal of Experimental Education, July 1, 1992: www.jstor.org/stable/20152338?seq=1.