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Self reflection

How self-reflection can be your key to success

According to the latest science, the average UK adult makes around 35,000 decisions per day! That’s potentially 35,000 times per day where we’re creating a ripple of consequence throughout our lives.  In binary terms, that ripple will be doing one of two things, it will either be helping us create the life we want or hindering us from it.

If we were to think about those 35,000 decisions consciously, we’d be living in a constant state of overwhelm and paralysis; to prevent this, our brains have developed a subconscious decision making system that essentially decides and drives the majority of our decision making process without us even knowing.

Modern life has hacked this system, it has gone from protecting us impeding us.

We’re subconsciously sleepwalking through life and according to Dr Mark Williamson, ‘when running on auto pilot, we often make unhelpful choices, so we feel trapped and life we’re living someone else’s life’.

Do you feel like you’re living someone else’s life?

So, how do you stop sleeping walking through life, how do you disengaging auto pilot, how do you get consciously conscious?

The answer is a surprisingly simple one, it’s one that’s been around for thousands of years and practised by the wisest and wealthiest, from the ancient Stoic philosophers all the way through to sporting superstars like Michael Jordan and billionaires like Bill Gates.

It’s self-refection.

Self-reflection is the key to self-awareness; simply put it’s about taking the time to think about, evaluate and to give serious thought to our attitudes, thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Self-refection allows us to analyse our lives from both a macro and micro level. 

At the macro level you can assess the overall trajectory of your life.  You can almost do a pre-mortem on where you’re heading and determine, in advance whether you’re happy with the direction. 

At a micro level, you can evaluate specific your responses to particular circumstances and events.  You can peel back the layers of your own psychology, you can learn the things that trigger you and gain a wiser perspective about who you are and how you’re living your life.

John Dewey said, we do not learn from the experience, we learn from reflecting on the experience and Baltasar Gracain said self-refection is the school of wisdom.  

This is why self-reflection really is the key to learning about and progressing ourselves; it gives us the capacity to replicate our wins and avoid repeating our indifferent experiences.

Ray Dalio, American billionaire, chief investment officer of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates and author of one of my all time favourite books, Principles has formulated an equation that can help us reflect and progress.

The equation is Pain + Reflection = Progress.

Let’s unpack that. 

Everything has a purpose, even pain and if we choose to let them, the challenges that test us and create our pains can strengthen us.  Modern pains might include the complexities of pandemic, work-life balance or a lack of it, workload or even burnout, relationship difficulties or divorce, job dissatisfaction or loss.

All of these, and any others pains you experience can, if you consciously choose to go toward the pain rather than avoid it can provide rich and valuable reflections for us.  These reflections, if viewed impartially and unbiasedly can enabled us to progress our careers, deepen the love in our relationships and improve our wellbeing and health.

Self-refection is an essential skill for personal growth, career success and life fulfilment.  From the Stoics to the rich and famous, the wisest and wealthiest are at it so why wouldn’t you?

To help you practise and become proficient at the skill of self-refection, here are 5 daily questions you can ask yourself. 

Note, there’s no right or wrong time to reflect, most commonly though people reflect in the morning or in the evening. 

What is important though is that you don’t try to analyse or judge your answers.  Just ask yourself and answer the questions either in your mind or by writing down your answers; writing down is particular useful as it enables you identify patterns of thought or behaviour which again can promote as Dalio says, progress.

Question 1

Something I realised or learned today was:

Question 2

The thing I found most challenging today was:

Question 3

Something I am proud of today was:

Question 4

To make tomorrow better than today, I will:

Question 5

My message to myself for tomorrow is:

In summary, using these questions as prompts for self-reflection can enable you to get off auto pilot and stop sleep walking through life.  They can and will bring a higher degree of consciousness to your daily life choices and ultimately help you live the life you want.

Your present and future is built upon the foundations of your past; letting your past go ‘unchecked’ is mistake men can’t afford to make.  Will you spend 5 minutes of your day looking at yourself instead of looking at your emails and through social media scrolling?

By Performance Coach & Founder of BetterMenDan Stanley


Dan Stanley