Self-reflection can help you to understand where you are and how you really are doing
What can you do to gain some clarity on where you are, where your people are and how your business is doing – beyond the numbers and data – at this unprecedented time in our world history?
I am sure that you are working as best as you can, and giving all that you can. So how can you do anything more?
Of course, you cannot. The way forward involves being a bit more left-field in our strategic thinking, and not always approaching things head on. Like when you look directly at a star at night out, it may seem dim. But if you look out of the corner of your eye, it will twinkle and dazzle.
Let’s do that with our thinking.
The problem with over analysing yourself
Are you on the go all of the time, especially over these past two years? I get it, you are not alone. And when you get a spare five minutes to yourself, you are often too tired to think straight, and may find yourself: catastrophizing, brooding, being too self-critical, or ruminating in a negative way.
I suggest that self-reflection, when performed properly, can cut through these things and provide a shining clarity of vision, some key realisations and some help to see a way forward. But self-reflection as a life skill is not taught particularly well. I would like to help you with that.
So here are five mental techniques that you can use, to direct and guide your self-reflection so that it has depth, insight, strategy and purpose.
The 5 self-reflection mental techniques
1. Be a success collector
I first got into the habit of writing down three things I was grateful for daily, after learning it from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). However, one of my personal coaches once challenged me, telling me that I had – at the time – a very narrow, performance/results based view of success. He helped me to see that my success could be whatever I wanted it to be – not just achieving large goals and accomplishments.
So try this.
For a week, write down three successes for you from each day, but they can be whatever you want, as small as you like. Doing so will begin to expand your definition of what success means to you in your business, your relationships and your life. Here are some real life examples from our clients to help you:
• I prepped and ate a healthy lunch
• I picked up my son from school
• I did not get angry when stuck in traffic
• I gave a spare mask to someone who needed it
• I stuck to my new daily walking routine
• I kept my calm when dealing with a difficult family member
2. Ask open ended value-based questions
Closed questions involve a yes or no answer. They can be very useful to ask when you are short on time, for example:
Can I make a cup of coffee in the next five minutes before my next zoom meeting?
Whereas open ended questions use:
Who have I enjoyed working with this year?
Why am I feeling a sense of dread?
What is the most important task to complete before the end of the year?
When can I find some time for me and my partner?
Where can I cut down on how much I am doing each week?
How can I separate myself from the noise and time wasters of my industry?
Which person do I need to give more time and attention to?
And these may not even require or result in an immediate answer. In fact, I would suggest that you use them as a mental tool to allow the deeper parts of your mind and of yourself to find some insightful answers, which may come over hours, days or weeks.
To make them especially useful for you, make them aligned to how well you are living aligned with your deepest values – the most important parts of yourself.
For example – if your values are integrity, innovation, and having fun.
How have we demonstrated our integrity to our clients this year?
Where have we added the most fun to our processes and services?
Why is innovation consistently so important to me?
If you are not sure what your personal/and/or business values are, click here for some help.
3. Partial successes
There will be many instances this year where you may well not have been able to achieve your goals or offer your full solutions. This could well be for many reasons, which are currently out of your control, such as:
• Supply chain issues
• Restrictions on travel
• Staff members being ill with covid
• Change in customer trends
• Uncertainty in your industry
• Rise in customer expectations
You can only do what you can do in these circumstances.
And so there may be times this year where you didn’t achieve all of something, but you did part of it or some of it. That is something to be celebrated! And if you were able to be true to your deepest values during those moments, then even better!
So much of life involves partial successes; then if you take some self-reflection time to analyse them, you can set yourself up for future successes.
Try this – write down three partial successes that you have had in your business and/or in your life this year. Then use some open ended self-reflection questions, such as those suggested above, to extrapolate out future process/process/value changes or improvements that you can use in your future.
4. Challenges overcome
It is always brilliant to take some time to see just how far you have come, and to be proud of yourself. Seriously, we don’t do it enough!
You may feel like you have taken 20 steps backwards this year. But if you have also taken 50 steps forwards, then you are still 30 steps better off than you were before! Never let a backwards step cloud you to your real long term progress: as it can be viewed through the long term lenses of your years, your decades and your legacy.
Make sure that everyone knows how proud you are of them for the challenges which you have overcome this year. Even if the main one is that you are still in business and healthy, that is a monumental achievement in our current circumstances.
Celebrate challenges overcome – never downplay them.
5. What would I tell a friend?
Forget yourself for this last self-reflection tool.
We can so often get in our own way, so let’s try something different. Think about a great friend of yours, from the past or right now. Imagine that they were going through all that you are going through right now. What would you tell them? What would say?
You would probably:
• Affirm them
• Tell them how well they are doing
• Give them a chance to vent how they are feeling
• Give them your opinion
• Offer support
• Remind them that they can come to you anytime
• Tell them that you believe in them
Actually use your imagination to visualise yourself sat down having a chat with them, you saying these things to them and how happy they look and how good you both feel.
It’s a lovely thought exercise to do.
Now know this. You can apply the exact same love and kindness to yourself. And if you still struggle with this, play out the same scenario in your head and visualise and imagine all of the good, helpful, supportive things which your great friend would say to you.
Pick your favourite of the five self reflection techniques and begin applying it into your life today.
As a further action step, as there are five, you could implement one each week during the last five weeks of this year.
Now is the time to come home to yourself
Take off the bag of worries
Remove the coat of your concerns
Sit and warm yourself by the heat of your true essence
Spend some time with yourself in the quiet
To nourish your weary parts
Consider the wonder of your life
And be open to what comes next
May it be as vital and full of energy
As the heart of a dog and the smile of a child