“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” — Aldous Huxley
If you don’t take the time to self-reflect, you’re going nowhere fast.
👎 You’ll stay in reactive mode, always feeling behind on things.
👎 You’ll keep making the same mistakes.
👎 You’ll keep wondering why you’re not moving forward.
The way we conduct ourselves says a lot about who we are, what we believe in, and what matters most to us.
When we have no sense of how we are behaving or responding to people, events, and circumstances in our lives, it creates problems in our relationships, our jobs, even in actualizing our potential.
To become who we envision, to achieve what we desire, it’s imperative that we take the time to understand our character, actions and motives.
To that end, introspection is not optional.
Especially if you’re a leader, an entrepreneur, or anyone who wants to excel at anything!
Self-reflection, or introspection, is the only way to initiate the kind of mindset shift that leads to growth and self-mastery.
And don’t mistake busyness for progress.
Believe me, I used to get a whole lot done, but I was always in reaction mode — fighting fires. I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day... I kept waking up to the same shit, day after day!
At the time, I was a mid-level manager in a manufacturing company. My days were full of meetings and dealing with 'people' issues. I rarely accomplished what I had on my list for the day.
I didn’t feel like I could get ahead, and I really had no clue what I was doing wrong.
Until I learned this thing called self-reflection.
What is self-reflection?
Self-reflection is objectively reviewing your thoughts, feelings, and actions to understand why you feel or behave a certain way and what you can do to improve.
It’s about getting to the root of what’s driving our behaviors, and committing to making a change.
“Until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.” – Iyanla Vanzant
The 'Reflect & Realign' progression works like this:
When we look at it like this, it’s easy to see how crucial self-reflection is if we want to get ahead. And that we are responsible for steering that ship!
I’ll be frank, I didn’t think I had the time for one more thing on top of all the group meetings, one-on-ones to help people deal with conflict, impromptu drop-bys, the endless emails, and the reports…
I was also worried that I’d end up dwelling on things, those things I wasn’t good enough at. There can be a tendency to self-criticize when we take an honest look at ourselves. This is obviously NOT how we want to self-reflect.
“Self-reflection is a kind of self-judgment. The difference is just this — the former is positive and the latter is negative.” -Balroop Singh
And I also knew that I couldn’t keep treading water — I was getting very tired! I was open to trying self-reflection.
So, realizing I needed a new approach, I made a point to carve out time on my calendar for self-reflection. And I committed to it almost daily until it became habit.
I knew I had to make it a painless practice if I was to stick with it, so I asked myself 3 simple questions each night:
What went right today?
What went wrong today?
What can I do differently to get better results?
That’s it. Crazy simple!
This daily self-reflection began helping me see what was working, what wasn’t working, and where I needed to adjust.
I never realized before starting this practice that I kept doing the same things expecting different results — um, isn’t that the definition of insanity? 😜
With regular self-reflection it wasn’t long and I was out of reaction mode and moving forward!
I found through my self-reflection that:
✔ I was saying yes to way too many meetings. I started declining meetings that weren’t necessary for me, and getting the notes instead.
✔ I also discovered that our agendas were an hour and we’d take up the entire hour, so I changed that to 20 minutes. Amazing the time we got back.
✔ When people came to me with an issue, I saw that I was solving everyone’s problems, rather than helping them learn to solve their own. I started asking them questions, empowering them to solve their own problems. The line outside my door got way shorter!
That was 25 years ago. I’ve used self-reflection in all areas of my life since then, and I attribute my success to it.
But what’s really gratifying to me — I’ve helped others learn to make it a daily habit and improve their leadership and their lives.
Self-reflection is probably one of the most potent yet under-utilized success tools available.
To make self-reflection really pay off, we have to make it a habit. Which sounds like a whole lot of work, but it’s really not. It starts with those 3 simple questions. And it gets easier every day.
Because it’s so simple and doesn’t require any tools or equipment, you really can do it anytime and any place that works best for you. The key is just to START.
Keep it simple and aim to reflect and realign your thoughts, feelings, and actions through this progression: accept → understand → control → change → achieve.