Cultivating Self-Reflection for Personal and Professional Growth

What do empathy, communication, adaptability, emotional intelligence, and compassion have in common? They are all so-called soft skills (which are really the hard skills) that help us thrive in our personal and professional lives. But what about reflection? In our fast-paced lives, where we often rush from one project to another, taking a moment to reflect can provide valuable insights and make our work easier.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled, “Don’t Underestimate the Power of Self Reflection,” authors James R. Bailey and Scheherazade Rehman note,

“Research shows the habit of reflection can separate extraordinary professionals from mediocre ones. We would go so far as to argue that it’s the foundation that all other soft skills grow from.”

Reflection is about learning, looking back on the day without bias or regret, contemplating your behavior and its consequences. It requires courage, thoughtfulness, and deliberation. Being at the “top of your game” only comes when you extract from your past how to engage the future.

The authors asked 442 executives to reflect on experiences that advanced their professional development, revealing three themes: surprise, frustration, and failure. Each of these is a catalyst for growth.

  • Surprise: Moments that challenge our preconceptions and open the door to deeper understanding. Have you ever been taken aback by a colleague’s unexpected outburst or witnessed a proven service’s sudden decline in popularity? These surprising moments, born from the intricate dance of human expectations, beckon us to pause and reflect. They challenge our preconceptions and open the door to deeper understanding.
  • Failure: A valuable teacher that offers profound insights for future success. Contrary to its ominous connotation, failure becomes a valuable teacher, offering profound insights for future success. Acknowledging mistakes is not a mark of weakness; it’s a testament to the courage to grow. We can only learn if we take the time to stop and intentionally reflect.
  • Frustration: A call to seek improvement, problem-solve, make changes, and innovate. Frustration occurs when we are unable to make progress toward a desired outcome. It’s where your goals clash with reality, and that clash is where the magic happens. “Goals reflect our values, and our values make up the compass that keeps us connected to our higher purpose in life and at work.“ Frustration is a call to seek improvement, problem-solve, make changes, and innovate.

“Reflection is executive functioning. True courageous reflection galvanizes your willpower. It promotes continuous self-awareness, empowers you, ensures you are valued, and gives you the self-awareness you need to quicken achieving your potential.” —Bailey and Rehman

Understanding yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and your impact on others can improve your leadership skills, decision-making, and relationships. A study published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies found that leaders who engaged in regular self-reflection were more likely to be seen as effective, with positive correlations to job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Crafting a Reflective Practice: Gentle Steps Toward Growth

Make it a habit to reflect on surprise, frustration, and failure in your life.

  1. Keep a Journal: When surprise, frustration, or failure visits, take a moment to document the experience. Detail the emotional nuances and immediate thoughts, seeking to understand the underlying triggers. Note what your inner judge or inner critic is telling you about the situation, and what your body is feeling. Try to uncover the gift or opportunity in these situations. You might not find an answer immediately, but if you stay with the practice, they will come.
  2. Weekly Review Sessions: Dedicate a specific time each week to revisit your journal entries. This dedicated space enables honest self-reflection, fostering a deeper understanding of your experiences and promoting growth.
  3. Enhance Your Entries: Don’t just replay the events; add to them. Think of yourself as a detective. What’s the real story behind the surprise, failure, or frustration? How can you avoid a repeat?

I understand that after a long day, engaging in self-reflection might seem exhausting, but it provides an opportunity for mental rejuvenation and personal growth, helping you understand your challenges better and recharge for a more fulfilling life overall.

Tools for Reflection

  • YearCompass: Use this free booklet to uncover patterns, capture dreams, and design your ideal year.
  • Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle: One of the most famous cyclical models of reflection that leads you through six stages exploring an experience: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan.
  • The Four F’s of Active Reviewing: A framework taking you through Facts, Feelings, Findings, and Future.

Coaching Support:

Are you struggling to create a compass that connects you to your higher purpose and calling? Do fear and procrastination hinder you from taking that crucial next step?

I understand the challenges because, like you, I’ve been there. Procrastination can easily turn days into weeks and weeks into years.

I specialize in coaching individuals like you, guiding them to re-awaken their creativity, enhance their leadership skills, and embark on a transformative journey to start a new chapter in their lives. While it’s possible to navigate this journey alone, the reality is that it often takes much longer without a coach to guide you.

Let’s expedite your path to success together. Book an introductory 30-minute coaching call with me, and let’s explore how I can help you overcome obstacles, unleash your potential, and achieve the fulfillment you deserve.