3 Simple Steps to Self-Reflection
What do you think of yourself?
Do you think of yourself?
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
So what is an examined life?
I believe that living an examined life is about knowing your truth, aligning with your values, and keeping yourself in check. It’s about learning to ask yourself hard questions and becoming more aware of the thoughts you think and why you feel what you feel. An examined life is one guided by your beliefs.
Your beliefs about yourself could be holding you back, whether from those BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), or a leadership task such as delegating appropriately or providing recognition to your people, or just the simple belief that you deserve to be happy.
Soooooo… what do you believe about yourself?
Because that is the standard you will always live up to.
While it’s helpful to have a sense of how our past has shaped our present, it’s also helpful to know that our past does not determine our present. We are who we choose to be now. And regular self-reflection is necessary if we want to grow and achieve our goals in life.
What if you were to come up with a list of 10 things you love about yourself (or at least believe about yourself)? I hope it would be an empowering reminder of your Truth (the “T” in GRIT®) — who you are and what’s important to you. (If you missed “Find Your Truth = Find Success”, take a look here to dig into what Truth is about.)
If we’re not getting what we want out of life, we have to raise our standards, and not settle for anything less.
A good place to start is with self-reflection.
Reflection enables us to create meaning from our experiences. When we use self-reflection we gain a better understanding of ourselves, our motivations, and our behaviors.
Keep in mind, this is not about criticizing yourself or embarking on a self-defeating sob story. This is about making the conscious decision to change your story (from limiting beliefs) and thereby change your life.
In fact, if we accept where we came from (our story), and even appreciate what it has taught us, it will catapult our self-improvement efforts.
Take a moment and feel gratitude for where you are right now. Honor your unique story and what got you here. And then feel gratitude for where you’ll be when you begin to reframe your story and work on your opportunity areas.
"Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” — Tony Robbins
I make it a point to periodically reflect on a few things I love about myself and my life, even the things that would typically be labeled ‘failures,’ because those are often the things that led to my greatest growth.
You can choose whatever self-reflection questions make sense for you. I like to use this simple guide:
Ask yourself three questions at the end of each day (or at any time):
What did I do right?
What did I do wrong?
What can I change to be more effective next time?
Be careful not to obsess. It’s important to be very objective — and let go when you’re done! It’s not healthy to hold on to the past — take a look at this short story to see why.
Self-reflection is best when used as a tool to expand awareness and assist in positive change.
It is possible to completely and unconditionally accept your Truth, whatever that is, and still be confident (and humble) about yourself. There are pro-football players who do it. Actors who do it. CEOs who do it.
Self-reflection is, after all, one of the most effective ways to keep moving forward to achieve your goals.
If you're seeking a breakthrough or an upgrade, you must be willing to change your beliefs about yourself from limiting to empowering. A self-reflection practice will do the trick.
Self-reflection can be challenging, of course. Much of our behavioral programming is buried in our subconscious and it can be uncomfortable to do this work. So give yourself grace and take it slowly if you need to. With all of life’s distractions it can be difficult to quiet the mind and build awareness, so it may help to start with a short meditation, journaling, going for a walk, or taking some slow, deep breaths. Smile, and accept yourself — you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
The key to using self-reflection as a tool to grow, is to focus on the goal of getting to know yourself better and eventually to imagine where you want to be in your life.
"So when we imagine the best version of ourselves, our brains can begin to build pathways that support us becoming that person." Tchiki Davis, MA, PhD
As a bonus of this internal work, you’ll be more prepared for the feedback you receive from a 360 assessment, or any feedback you give and receive.
And if you manage a team, your self-reflection is a great benefit to them as well! You’ll be more present and mindful of the team’s needs too, and you can start teaching them the art of self-reflection to up-level their performance.
Give self-reflection a try. Better yet, make it a habit.
What do you do for self-reflection? I’d love to know — please share in the comments!