End Your Day with this Simple Self-Reflection

by Andrew P. Minigan

Ralph Waldo Emerson captured well the importance of personal growth and not sweating or overanalyzing the small stuff when he wrote,

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Each and every day will come with “blunders and absurdities” of all shapes and sizes, and there is value in thinking through them, processing them, and if possible, taking a step forward.

What is something you’d keep from your day - a highlight?

What is something you’d throw away - a difficult moment?

These are two questions I have posed to myself, friends, roommates, and significant others for the past five years. In fact, I have every day’s “keep” and “throw” over the span of a couple years documented in a journal. These questions have served as a way for me to make self-reflection a habit—to think on the day’s events as I decompress and prepare to move onward to the day ahead.

“Keeps” and “throws” began on a whim. One Sunday night during my sophomore year at the University of New Hampshire, my roommates and I reflected on our keeps and throws from the weekend. It became a Sunday tradition, and before I knew it, even the more reluctant roommate (looking at you, Luke) chimed in with something he would keep, and something that he was eager to learn and grow from. Nothing was too insignificant or heavy for the discussion, and it was a space for all of us to talk about our inner rumblings.

Years removed from my cozy Durham digs, I now continue my “keep and throw” practice for a few minutes every night, either talking through them with my girlfriend, texting a friend, or jotting them down in my journal before bed.


The Benefits of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection, like ending one’s day thinking about the day’s events —the good, the bad, the ugly— can be a simple yet extremely powerful practice. Pausing for reflection helps you make meaning of experiences and engage in perspective-taking. It can be restorative for you to revisit moments with a clearer mind and some distance. (Perhaps that person who bumped into you on the way to class was having just as lousy of a day as you.) Through self-reflection and journaling, I’ve learned how to grow from both my keeps and my throws. Growing from throws is very different than wallowing in them; it’s productive.

Be Deliberate

Writing in a journal isn’t a silver bullet, and one reflective practice doesn’t transform your well-being overnight, but reflective practices should be deliberate. Your days in college can be hectic and over-scheduled, and it’s easy to postpone things and not carve out time for yourself. By ending each day with my “keep and throw” reflection, I built a practice that was enjoyable, didn’t take up too much time, and could be done collaboratively or on my own. I was able to be intentional about my reflection, and deliberate practice led to routine. I now regularly reflect on my own life, my relationships, my work, and my growth. I think through what I would do differently in certain situations, what I understand better than I did previously, and what was beyond my control. As a result, I think I’ve become a more thoughtful and patient person.

Develop Your Own Simple Self-Reflection

What is something that you could do to integrate space and time for simple self-reflection in your life? What would you keep and throw from today?


Andrew P. Minigan writes on education, human development, and psychology. You can learn more about his work here and follow him on Twitter @AndrewRQI.