“Admit not sleep into your tender eyelids till you have
reckoned up each deed of the day –
How have I erred, what done or left undone? 

So start, and so review your acts, and then for vile deed
chide yourself, for good be glad.”

– Epictetus [c. 50 – c. 135 AD]


Best done before going to bed and before we tend to become weary, unmotivated, groggy and lack concentration. Find a quiet place and spend 5-10 minutes reflecting on what happened during your day. The goal here is to focus on the important happenings of the day, particularly those that have ethical valence, or that have impeded, or accentuated, the wellbeing of your physical and mental character.

It is an opportunity to both grade your ethical performance of the day, and making you accountable of your actions – making both a mental note and writing a couple of lines in a journal or notebook of what you have learned from what the day has ‘challenged you with’…in other words, what lessons has reality presented you?  Perhaps you have lost your temper, or a habit that you’re keen to improve upon become more effortless.

Some questions-to-self can help extricate the reflections we seek:
What did I do wrong today?
What could I have done better? (Gently, but firmly reprove yourself and consider alternative actions)
What vice, bad or unhealthy habits have gone unchecked?
What have I done well? (Be humble, exercise gratitude)
In what respect am I better?
What have I omitted, that I could of done? (Be brutally frank & honest with yourself)

Lastly, acknowledge that you’ve taken this time to reflect & reaffirm your aspirations (goals) and intentions (actions) for tomorrow.

Reflection provides you an opportunity to create some ‘space’ in your day to identify and grade your performance throughout the course of your day. This simple, but profoundly powerful tool will not only identify areas where you can improve, but it makes you increasingly more familiar and sensitive to the person you really are. You’ll get to know yourself that little bit more each day – and with this comes greater self-control and mindfulness in how you respond and connect when and where it matters most…in real time in the real world – at our jobs, with our peers, or at home with our family. With repeated daily practice this has a profound impact on how you view and respond to the word around you.

Seneca says it so elegantly…

“The spirit ought to be brought up for examination daily. It was the custom of Sextius when the day was over, and he had taken himself to rest, to inquire of his spirit. What bad habit of yours have you cured to-day? What vice have you checked? In what respect are you better?”

Anger will cease, and become more gentle, if it knows that every day it will have to appear before the judgement seat. What can be admirable that this fashion of discussing the whole of the day’s events? How sweet is the sleep which follows this self-examination?

How calm, how sound, and careless is it when our spirit has either received praise or reprimand, and when our secret inquisitor and censor has made his report about our morals? I make use of this privilege, and daily plead my cure before myself: when the lamp is taken out of sight, and my wife, who knows my habits, has ceased to talk, I pass the whole day in review before myself, and repeat all that I have said and done: I conceal nothing from myself, and omit nothing; for why should I be afraid of any of my shortcomings, when it is in my power to say, “I pardon you this time; see that you never do that any more”?…A good person delights in receiving advice: all the worst people are the most impatient of guidance.”
– Seneca [4 BC – 65 AD]