Self Reflection: A Guide to Realising Your Potential

The beginning of a new year is a natural point with which to take stock and reflect. To look back on the year that has been and to consider what may need to be different or requires focus for the year head. It is within the container of the reflection process that learning happens, clarity is formed, and conscious decisions are made. Done well, you will start the year clear, connected and focused on what needs to happen to achieve what you want in 2024.

Taking the time to self-reflect gives leaders the space they need to slow down and evaluate where they are. Regularly practising self-reflection can strengthen your awareness and help to identify patterns in your decision making.[1]

The Value of Reflection

Self-reflection is a process of deliberately and thoughtfully considering your thoughts, feelings, decisions, and actions. Giving yourself space and time to go deep, to understand yourself better beyond what is on the surface or just under the surface opens the door to a deeper self-awareness that is the gateway to growth and high performance that include;

Improved Decision-Making: Self-reflection gives executives the opportunity to pause and evaluate their decisions and actions critically (in a judgement free environment). This introspection allows us to look back and develop a deeper understanding of the motives and consequences of choices and apply that learning to the future.

Enhanced Emotional Intelligence: Regular self-reflection enhances emotional intelligence, which is crucial for managing personal and professional relationships. Understanding and managing one’s emotions can lead to better communication, connection and conflict management skills.

Stress Management: Reflection can be a form of stress relief. It allows executives to process their experiences, identify stressors, and develop strategies to manage stress effectively.

Personal Growth: Reflecting on experiences, challenges, and successes can lead to personal growth and development. It helps executives identify areas for improvement and encourages continuous learning.

Intentional Leadership and Life: It is easy to let weeks, months and even years pass by, busy in the slip stream of daily life. Intentional leadership and living involve making deliberate, conscious choices in one’s actions, behaviors, and mindset, both in a professional and personal context. Whilst it can be uncomfortable to lean into the discomfort of acknowledging where you’ve fallen short, it is this tension and dissatisfaction that creates the motivation for transformational growth.

A HBR article exploring the benefits of engaging in reflective practices explains that: ‘Reflection requires courage. It’s thoughtful and deliberate…Reflection – well and truly done – is ego-bruising. Always remember that excellence is achieved by stumbling, standing up, dusting yourself off, then stumbling again. If you study those stumbles, you’re much less likely to fall down in the future.’[2]

Being Your Own Best Coach

A core part of our methodology in the book, Core Confidence and signature program, Acts of Confidence, is resourcing women to become their own best coach and develop the skills of self-coaching. Having worked with thousands of women, we’ve seen over and over again, the incredible transformations that take place when you learn to quieten your inner-critic and focus more on asking yourself provocative (& often uncomfortable) questions that unlock the default assumptions and beliefs that often hold us back from achieving our dreams.

Reflecting on the Year that Was: How to Self-Reflect

Reflection is something that requires intention and attention. We’re big fans of meditation and journaling to help illuminate areas that you may not be conscious of and have also find significant benefit in engaging in personal and professional development opportunities (like reading books, attending programs, listening to podcasts, working with a coach) to encourage introspection. The key is finding reflective activities that work for you and to develop a regular practise that will allow this to form a key part of your growth and development journey.

‘It’s difficult to project how you want to grow and develop without considering where you have come from. Reflecting on past performance gives you a foundation to plan for your future development.’ [3]

Celebrate Achievements: Reflect on the moments from the past year that you’re most proud of and write these down. This may be big achievements at work or personal victories that might seem small to others but are significant to you. It’s easy to under-estimate the importance of small wins or changes made but when repeated consistently over time can have a significant impact. This exercise isn’t just about listing your successes; it’s about becoming aware of your strengths and the strategies that led to these outcomes so that they can be leveraged in service of future goals.

Embrace the Lessons: Next, turn your attention to the moments that didn’t go as planned. Really take some time (and courage) to face into the areas, situations and dynamics that you wish had worked out differently. This is not an invitation to beat yourself up or wallow in regret; rather to understand what didn’t work as signposts of what to do differently in the year ahead.

Observe Your Patterns and Default Behaviours: Understanding your default behaviours requires honest self-assessment. Are there specific situations where you feel more apprehensive or less confident? Are there repeated situations and people, where you find you are resisting or avoiding taking action even though you know there’s a benefit in doing so? The first step is to slow down, and acknowledge these patterns, as they are great clues for increasing your self-understanding.

Go Deeper: The next step is to dig below the surface level resistance, frustration or avoidance, and unpack the drivers. Almost always there’s unconscious beliefs, stories and previous experiences that are playing out. By getting curious about these deeper parts of yourself, you allow the real concerns, fears and lack of alignment to surface. Again, be kind to yourself during this process; it’s not wrong or bad that these underlying fears exist, it’s simply being more conscious of what’s playing out and then resourcing yourself to navigate through these.

Challenge Your Assumptions: Finally, there’s an opportunity to challenge your default assumptions and beliefs (or the stories we tell ourselves to lean on the incredible work of Brene Brown). Once you’re aware of them, you can question their validity, test to see if they still apply and experiment with new behaviours (or as we call them small acts of confidence) that expand your options of how to deal with situations you find challenging or shy away from.

Setting Yourself Up for Success in 2024

Once you have taken the time to harvest the benefits of self-reflection, it’s time to turn your attention to consciously and intentionally authoring your future.

Get Clear and Make Decisions: Clarity is gold and is often undervalued and underappreciated in terms of the impact it has on our mindset and ability to achieve our goals in career and life. Act of Confidence #1 Get Clear and Make Decisions is about prioritising what you really want and don’t want (this month, this year or this decade). While superficially this sounds easy, in our experience gaining clarity and committing to a decision is actually really hard for most people and in many cases quite painful. Many people find it difficult to zero in on one or two most important things because they don’t want to miss out, or like the variety of having lots of options. However, the more willing you are to commit to what matters most to you, the more energy and focus you will exert in that direction. Lack of clarity is a huge impediment to creating the life you deserve.

Take Aligned Action: Getting clear is super helpful in terms of decision-making and confident action taking. When you know what is most important (your WHY), it is far easier to determine whether an activity, person, request or project is aligned to that outcome and to confidently take action. Testing each opportunity in the light of ‘does this take me closer or further from my goal?’, provides a simple way of figuring out what you will say yes or no to. One of the core philosophies of our work and integral to the personal transformations that occur for our clients is that ….the act of confidence comes before the feeling of confidence.

Of equal importance to taking action is our ability to say no or not now to opportunities or invitations that can distract us from our goals and focus. That is why one of the most transformational and freeing pillars in our work is Act of Confidence #6 Set and Enforce Boundaries: Saying No with Confidence.

Build Structures, Rhythms and Accountability: Establish routines and systems that make it easier to say yes (than no) to the commitments and action steps that will move you towards achieving your goal. Reserving space in your diary for regular activities preserves times for important work and leveraging routines and habits can reduce the mental fatigue and improve efficiency.

Be Accountable to someone (that is not yourself). Accountability or lack thereof can be a critical gap when it comes to leveraging ourselves forward to achieve success. One of the critical success factors in all our programs is the use of ‘accountability buddies’. This structure leverages the power of social dynamics, commitment, shared goals, and mutual support, making it a potent tool for achieving personal and professional goals.

Conclusion

Self-reflection is not just a powerful tool, but a necessary discipline for anyone looking to harness their full potential in the year(s) ahead. It’s a foundational practice that transforms setbacks into learning opportunities and aspirations into tangible outcomes. By engaging in honest introspection, challenging limiting beliefs, and embracing both triumphs and trials, you pave a path for authentic growth. The intentional clarity gained through self-reflection propels you towards making informed, deliberate choices that align with your deepest values and ambitions.

As we stand on the threshold of 2024, let self-reflection guide you in sculpting a year marked by purposeful action, continuous learning, and a commitment to personal excellence. Remember, the quality of your future is shaped by the depth of your reflective practice today.

Draw inspiration from our book Core Confidence (with the self-coaching questions provided at the end of every chapter) and through the Acts of Confidence program, which will propel you forward at an accelerated pace.

Want to find out how to become your own best coach? Book a breakthrough call and talk through your ambitions for 2024 with one of our confidence coaches.

[1]  Tony Gregg in People Management  https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/article/1814062/five-ways-leaders-practise-self-reflection-why-its-important-business-growth

 
[2] https://hbr.org/2022/03/dont-underestimate-the-power-of-self-reflection
[3] Forbes article Why Reflection is Crucial to Leadership, Future Planning and Success: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/01/12/why-reflection-is-crucial-to-leadership-future-planning-and-success/?sh=3319f737e57f  

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