October 12, 2021

How self-reflection makes you smarter and more productive

How self-reflection makes you smarter and more productive

I work with people to radically improve their effectiveness and wellbeing. This is a highly personalised experience where my clients identify the big changes they need to make to elevate their impact at work, have more fulfilling relationships and enjoy a greater sense of emotional freedom. Achieving that type of change requires an ongoing process of identifying and unpacking the beliefs, assumptions and stories that govern their current behaviours for the purpose of learning and growth. AKA self-reflection. By making the unconscious, conscious, we create new beliefs that direct a different set of behaviours.

This process is not fool-proof and when I observe the program participants that don’t make progress, there’s a common denominator – they can’t (or won’t) self-reflect, which keeps them trapped in their current mould. Several blockers stop them:

  • They don’t know how to self-reflect because they’ve never been introduced to the concept
  • They don’t have a framework to process the challenging thoughts and emotions that can arise, which stops them from taking effective action as a result of new insights and learning. This means they get stuck in rumination, instead of helpful self-reflection
  • They’re addicted to the dopamine hits and approval that come from taking action
  • As a result, they can’t see the value so being busy stops them from starting

Yet it’s such a handbrake to their growth. Research by developmental psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey found the process of seeing through the filters that govern our decisions and behaviour, improves our mind’s ability to handle complexity and work with ambiguity. A study of call centre workers by Francesca Gino and others found employees who reflected on their performances and lessons learned for 15 minutes at the end of every day, performed 23% better than those who didn’t reflect. A study of UK commuters found similar results.

Here are my tips for starting a self-reflection habit:

  1. Find a framework that helps you process your thoughts. For me, nothing beats the line and drama triangles.
  2. Create a shower-time ritual of reflecting on a few probing questions. Because most of us find showers relaxing, using this time for self-reflection opens up the neural pathways for greater levels of insight. Your morning walk or commute to work (when we get back in the office) are also great opportunities. Here are some questions to get you started.
  3. What or who has triggered me today?
  4. What am I avoiding?
  5. How am I contributing to any dramas in my life?
  6. What do I need to take 100% responsibility for?
  7. Find a reflection buddy who’s also up for doing the inner work in a fun, playful and curious way. My two team members and my boyfriend are my go-to reflection buddies.
  8. Find a coach who can challenge you to see different perspectives and channel your self-reflection into learning and change. I have a coach who I see every two to three weeks, and check in with via email weekly
  9. Listen to podcasts or read some books that prompt your thinking. We have a stack on our inspiration page.

Do you want to make your self-reflection habits more effective? If yes, then let’s talk.

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