Self-reflection isn’t enough. (In fact, if done improperly, it can be more damaging than beneficial!)
I was recently working with a group of managers within a health facility in the upstate NY area. We were delving into the GRIT model (generosity, respect, integrity and truth). While looking at truth, we had a great conversation about ‘not only being aware of our truth, but completely and unconditionally accepting our truth.’ It was a powerful moment for the group and a lot of light bulbs went off.
Most of the managers shared that through their years of going through development programs such as the one I was there for that week, they felt like they could identify and accept what needed improving. And in some cases admittedly it was tough to hear, like when it was a blind spot in a Leadership 360 assessment . A few of them had even developed the habit of taking time to reflect. But what they realized they had not mastered was the ability to look at themselves and really be ok with these development areas. To accept where they are right now and still think highly of themselves was not even on their radar.
When we do take the time to look inside, we humans have a tendency to self-criticize rather than self-reflect.
Of course, there’s always the exception to the rule, and there are those that over appreciate themselves rather than objectively looking inside. But we’ll focus on the majority - the self-criticizers.
You know who you are. While you’re receiving feedback, you silently beat yourself up that you should have done better, known better, shown others better. You debrief a project and all you can focus on is what you could have done better, and you silently judge yourself for it. You’re asked about your strengths and you can only think of those ‘opportunity areas.’
While it’s very beneficial to look at what we need to improve, if we dwell on it in an ‘I’m not good enough’ kind of way, it’s self-defeating. Focusing on a thing can have the tendency to make it escalate. At the very least, it’s inefficient, because the energy wasted on those thoughts and beliefs could have been spent moving on more quickly. In fact, if we accept where we are, and then even appreciate where we are, it will catapult our improvement efforts.
It’s similar to goal setting and always striving to get there, pushing yourself, focusing on the things you don’t have yet, rather than taking the time to appreciate the journey and even visualizing yourself feeling gratitude after reaching your goal. Just reading that sentence you can feel it drain your energy in the beginning of the sentence, and you can feel it energize you in the second part. There’s something that propels us when we lighten up, let go of the forcing and pushing and criticizing. We work with a more positive energy.
So while it’s important to look at what you need to improve, it’s much more effective to take a moment and feel gratitude for where you are right now. And then feel gratitude for where you’ll be when you begin working on your opportunity areas.
Give it a try - you really don’t have anything to lose, do you?