Have you ever noticed on social media that people tend to predominantly focus on the positive and happy moments in life, filtering out the rest? Many of us tend to do the same in our professional lives too, shying away from the challenges and sides to ourselves that seem less desirable. Most people don’t really want to focus on the negatives out of choice. But emerging research has shown that only focusing on this ‘filtered state’ can be damaging to both your mental health and professional performance.
It’s only when you acknowledge your mistakes and shortcomings that you can really succeed. As Brene’ Brown says, it’s about talking to yourself with tough love, being radically honest so you can become a better leader by building your decision making, communication and learning skills.
What is self-reflection?
Self-reflection is essentially thinking about your own feelings and behaviour, and the reasons that may lie behind them. It’s knowing who we are and how we are seen. Practising self reflection can help you to internalize learnings and identify ways that you can improve by putting your learnings into practice.
It doesn’t have to be a lengthy task either, all you need is 5 minutes per day. Considering that the average person checks their phone 150 times per day, it’s not a huge time investment compared to things we do that are already running in the background. The difference is that continuous learning can help you tap into higher job performance, career success and leadership effectiveness.
But how many of us actually put the concept into practice? Only a few, as it happens. Recent research shows that while 85% of people think they are self-aware, only 10-15% of people are. It’s so easy to fall into a routine that works, without considering the wider impact of your choices. This in itself could compromise you reaching your full potential across the board.
How can it help me?
Executive coach, Jennifer Porter says: “Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning.” This meaning can inform future behaviors and choices, something that’s especially important for managers as they navigate complex situations. With all the complexity that life is throwing at people right now, it’s never been more important.
By becoming more aware of your actions and noting real-time feedback that others are giving you, it’s also an important way to develop your soft skills and assess their efficacy. In fact, people with a high level of emotional intelligence could allow companies to do better in an increasingly technology-based environment, Forbes has found. Emotionally intelligent workers can more easily navigate situations where there’s fear of job loss or stress about integrating with AI than their peers. It’s something we’ve seen in our own research too, in a range of different contexts: when Lifeed users regularly practice self-reflection, they note a 90% reduction in stress levels and 80% see a notable improvement across most of their transferable skills.
How do I do it?
Sometimes, it feels like life gets in the way and there’s too much going on to learn. There are lots of distractions that pull you away from engaging with your own self improvement.
Self-reflection is like forming a new habit. It will quickly become a natural part of your routine if you make space to do so. Ideally you should set aside time for it each day. It will truly become habitual if you stick to the same time every day, whether this be five minutes before your lunch break or at the end of the working day.
Everyone will have their own way of doing things, but there are a few things you can try. The best place to start is to clear your mind and ask yourself a few questions. These can include things like:
- Am I setting enough goals for myself?
- Am I making too many goals and setting myself up for failure?
- Am I stressed out due to situations out of my own control?
- What do I love about my job and am I doing enough of it?
- Have I accomplished anything extraordinary in my job recently?
This gives you a better idea of how to get started. Explore what works best for you, whether this be journaling your thoughts, sitting with your eyes shut or taking a walk. You don’t necessarily need to write the answers down, but the idea is to answer thoughtfully, thinking deeply about how you really feel.
By practicing continuous learning in this way, you need to be honest with yourself. Try to see things objectively, looking at yourself from the outside in, and then also considering your own reasoning. Over time, our research shows you’ll find yourself with more energy and a greater vision for the future on which to build your skills (Lifeed, 2020).