Self-reflection is an activity familiar to us all, yet one which I feel is rarely utilised effectively.
As conscious beings, we are able to live, reflect and adjust our behaviour in a way we see fit. Yet, we make a bad habit out of focusing heavily on the negatives, many a time allowing these emotions and memories to get the better of us.
Self-reflection for many consists of reliving memories as either ‘that was good’, I hope that happens again, or ‘I failed’, I hope that never happens again. The anger and embarrassment we feel is a natural reaction.
However, don’t just criticise yourself for your mistakes. Negative emotions are natural – it’s your opinion of these emotions that matter. Embrace them and make the adjustments. Self-reflection at its most powerful, will help you make these mistakes positive.
“Your best teacher is your last mistake” Ralph Nader
Every mistake you make is there to be addressed and corrected. Make the mistake, address it honestly and calmly – “hey I made a mistake, that’s OK” and correct where necessary.
Imagine your life like the path of a torpedo, they constantly veer in the wrong direction and adjust themselves back on course. The journey appears straight, whereas in reality it is a stream of corrections. Despite the errors they still make it to their destination.
Or if you find it easier picture yourself, self-propelled under-water missile comparison isn’t for everyone.
The most important aspect of self-reflection is to be 100% honest with yourself. You are consolidating your beliefs and ideas, striving to become a better person and you are not comparing yourself to anyone else.
The one problem many people have with their approach to change is a ‘quick fix’ attitude, as though a few days of adjustment will lead to an irreversible change for the better.
Self-reflection is a gradual process. If you can spare the time to ruthlessly examine yourself then do, but you won’t figure out the answers to all your problems straight away. You may even start with nothing. But as long as you are striving, taking time to really assess what it is that keeps you at your best, in time you will realise that your mistakes are there to perform better and achieve more.
The process of change and indeed of self-reflection requires belief. Believe in yourself and in the process. Believe in the process as opposed to the result. Picture how you want to feel and imagine yourself as a success.
This filters into the idea of perfection. Many people are under their own constant pseudo-philosophical spell that in order to succeed, they need to be on point 100% of the time. This is both crazy and impossible. It can spawn feelings of anxiety and guilt, chiefly because you feel a failure for not reaching your targets. Understand and accept that it’s ok not to be on point all the time.
From a business perspective, self-reflection can provide substantial benefits, both with performance and relationships. For example, a manager or team member who is able to reflect on their progress may find that too often they pass the blame whenever a mistake arises. If he/she can reflect on this, admitting the mistake immediately, the whole team will benefit. The problem can be rectified quickly without any false accusations or clashes.
My advice for a Self-Reflection:
Make time for yourself each week (Sunday night is a good time to relax and relive the week in your head) Ask yourself what went well and what didn’t. Savour your mistakes and then try and figure out why you succeeded and why you failed.
Keep in mind that this requires focus on yourself throughout the week – if it helps, write down how an interaction/conversation/meeting went and how you felt before/after. Were there other factors that affected/contributed? If you can pinpoint these, then you are half way there.
Next step, make a change.