How to Conduct Constructive Self-Reflection?


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As a new year begins, self-reflection is quite common especially over the previous year and ponder about the remaining months of this year. There are many ways to reflect. Some people journal. Others record their thoughts on audio or video. And some just take some time to imagine how the year played out visualizing the different highlights.

Regardless of how you do the reflecting, where you aim your focus can make a big difference. Consider the following two questions you may ask yourself:

  1. Am I good at X?
  2. How can I get better at X?

Both questions may be ones that you have asked yourself before. Yet the quality of the two questions differ. Let’s examine each one.

What is the underlying question beneath “Am I good at X”?

You’re questioning your own personal value. “Good” compared to what criteria held by whom should be the first thought that comes to mind. This question imposes a measuring stick and usually the criteria sits outside of your control.

Well what if the answer is “yes”? Is that any better? If someone else is doing the measuring and you don’t know the criteria on what will impact the evaluation, are you any more empowered if the answer is “yes”?

Now consider the second question. What does it suggest? In the first question, the “I” was in question which means your self-worth. In the second question, your self-worth is never in question. In fact neither are your abilities. In the world of improv, there is a fundamental notion called “yes, and…”. Another way of stating it is “accept and build”.

The second question accepts the present state, the baseline and questions only the possibility of how much better it can get from there.

If you were to mentally start searching for an answer, the question already directs your mind for a particular type of answer: improvement. The question is filtering out the same or lesser performance and only wants your brain to deliver results of improvement.

Even if you are not doing something well, what’s more useful — to focus on it not going well or questioning how to become better at that too?

So as you conduct your own personal year-in-review, be mindful of the questions you ask yourself and the mental and emotional directions they take you.

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