I often tell my clients that a daily practice of self-reflection strengthens self-awareness and will enable them to make better choices. Leaders who work with me to shape and commit to such a practice are better able to tap into their highest potential for creativity, vitality, and success.
Daily self-reflection requires radical honesty or Silicon Valley’s buzzword radical candor. Unfortunately, social norms often seem to encourage the opposite. On social media, we predominantly encounter positive posts as others present only the most positive sides of themselves and their lifestyle. We are just beginning to find out the impact of this. However, a growing body of research suggests that seeing people’s positive posts has negative effects on mood through envy and the feeling that others have a better life.
Some people lie in an effort to make themselves look more desirable or to look more capable than they are. Someone might inflate the successes of a project to a client while failing to mention the significant challenges on the horizon. The problem is that all of these white lies inhibit your leadership potential. Only when you acknowledge your mistakes to yourself (and then to your team and employees) will you be able to succeed. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work whose TED talk is one of the most viewed in the world, has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She advises that we should talk to ourselves like someone we respect, with honesty and tough love. However, most people are held back by the conclusions they may reach. Radical honesty would require us to stand fully in our truth, which may be less successful than we would like others to believe.
Being honest with yourself will help your decision-making, communication and learning become more effective. It will not be instantaneous. Yet, it will become easier as you practice it consistently. Practice results in progress. It is in the times where you feel that you cannot find enough time that reflection will prove most useful.
Create a habit by dedicating the same time of day for your self-reflection practice. I recommend first thing in the morning when your mind is clear and you have not been pulled in a million different directions. This is your opportunity to prioritize what matters most to you and set an intention for the day before your phone starts ringing and your email inbox starts dinging. Alternatively, you might find it easier to reflect on the day before you go to sleep.
The key is to set aside time where you can be radically honest with yourself.
Start by dedicating two minutes each day for self-reflection.
Then establish the method of self-reflection that works best for you. Common methods include self-reflection while walking, sitting quietly with your eyes closed, or journaling. Exploring your preferred style is an important initial step to being honest with yourself.
Lastly, choose how you are going to use your time effectively. My clients who are left-brained like a more methodical approach and prefer working through a set of questions. My right-brained clients who are more artistic and creative prefer to set aside time to freely write their stream of consciousness into their journal. Your style will be unique to you. Therefore, it is imperative to choose your personal preference.
Some people may find it easier to focus on negative self-reflection and dismiss positive self-reflection. If this is the case, counterbalance each negative thought with a positive thought. One way to do this is to ensure that every thought contains a rosebud (positive thought) and a thorn (negative thought). An alternative approach is to structure thoughts using simple sentence starters that are positively skewed (e.g., “I appreciate…” “I like…” “I’m happy…”).
Here are seven questions you can use as a jumping off point to start your self-reflection practice.
- How am I feeling?
- How do I want to feel?
- What do I need to do, think, feel, or hear to achieve this feeling?
- What is my intention today?
- What am I avoiding? Why?
- How could I have been a more effective leader in a recent meeting or encounter?
- How am I helping my team achieve their goals?
Published on Sep. 28, 2018 on Forbes
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