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October 27, 2019

Reflection is the exercise that trains our capacity to think effectively

Reflection is the exercise that trains our capacity to think effectively
Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation—or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.

— Ayn Rand

I was introduced to this quote by one of my favourite sources of intellectual protein – The Knowledge Project, and it perfectly reflects the message I was sharing in several coaching sessions last week. We know our automatic thinking brain has an unhelpful influence on our decision making. AKA cognitive bias, the best antidote to this highly effective but also limiting brain function is to routinely reflect on what’s driving our thoughts and behaviours and how they’re creating mindsets and habits.

  • How has my fear of being wrong restricted the questions I asked today?
  • What was I thinking when I rejected that feedback? Did I really listen to what they were saying before I discounted it? Where does that come from?
  • Why did I talk over that person? What am I saying to myself when I don’t listen to other people’s perspectives?

These might be questions that you could be kindly curious about this week. If they don’t resonate, pick one that does. Research shows that when we’re curious about mindsets and behaviours that don’t serve us, the simple act of being curious helps loosen the grip these habits have over us.

I see this being a particular challenge for men. Men have been socially conditioned to toughen up and get on with things. Self-reflection has not been codified into their DNA as much as it has with women. Which means a discipline of routinely self-reflecting can be a game-changer for them. If only more saw it as a sign of strength, as opposed to unhelpful navel gazing that makes them weak

Or as Ayn puts it:

“The men who scorn or dread introspection take their inner states for granted, as an irreducible and irresistible primary, and let their emotions determine their actions. This means that they choose to act without knowing the context (reality), the causes (motives), and the consequences (goals) of their actions.


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