Reflection: The Path to Clarity, Learning and Growth

Dec 26, 2019 5 Min Read

As we approach the end of the year, many people, leaders or otherwise are mapping next year’s vision.

Strategic vision requires reflection – a deliberate act of thoughtfulness where one seeks to understand their current, past and future performance for growth purposes.

For many, end of the year is when majority adhere to Peter Drucker’s advice:

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection, will come even more effective action.

What does it mean to reflect?

Reflection is a derivative of careful thought vis-à-vis past actions, current moves, repositions and next moves. The purpose is to draw insights around one’s beliefs, character, attitudes and behaviours.

At best, reflection breeds clarity and self-awareness. Reaching clarity for effective and executable actions requires investment. Time investment primarily, and in some cases money, for those who may need a coach to guide them through the process.

However, reflection need not cost you money if you know how to hack your mind. By deliberating with yourself and taking an inward journey to discover deep wealth of self-knowledge: disposition, aspirations, direction, fears and esteem – then integrating that to self and accepting self as you are.

Reflection has many benefits unimaginable: clarity of thoughts, decisiveness, increased creativity, time management, peace of mind, ability to see yourself as you are (a flawed human being) and embrace your own identity, as well as the ability to see others as they are (with compassion and care).

Why reflection matters?

Self-awareness is the holy grail of reflection. Leader or not, you are the captain of your ship and master of your fate. So determining which direction to take your life is solely up to you.

A 2010 research study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University found that, “a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success” in leadership.

Being self-aware unlocks creativity unimaginable. Leaders who are self-aware are in touch with their strengths and weaknesses, identity, passions, purpose, vision, and are directed by clear convictions and values. 

To realise your vision, you as a leader of self and others must first be clear and grounded in your core identity first: who are you, what you stand for, and where you want to be.

You cannot expect to lead another if you’re unclear within. This would be tenuous if you’ve no vision, mission, values, ethics, esteem and integrity. 

Reflection helps you manage your energy, unearth and solidify your base as you reach incredible insights critical for growth. Empowering self and others around you to create high performance for self, teams, products and services.

For example, business leaders like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates credit their enormous success to self-reflection.

To the average person that may sound intuitive but let’s be clear, such skill does not come easily but rather from much reflection done consistently year after year!

How to reflect effectively

For those who find this process onerous and lacking in ROI (return on investment) in the short-term, you should note that real gains are realised in the long-term.

Note however, like all habits, if you follow the simple steps to start, the habit of reflection will stick and may even become addictive as you engage in practice.

To get started, you will need to:

1. Decide, commit and start: Acknowledge that spending a few moments of your time each day (it does not matter when) is crucial to your overall performance and success.

2. Choose when and where to practice and stick to the plan: Like any good habit, you will need to decide when and where to do your reflection.

3. Turn off your electronics: Consider this practice sacred, because it really is. For some, reflection is synonymous to meditation or prayers.

4. Where to begin reflecting? Reflection is self-inquisition. You ask and answer your own questions as an outside observer looking in.

5. Record the hacked insights: Journal down your thoughts. You will be amazed by the incredible insights and creativity you could generate.

6. Review often: Best outcomes results from much iterations of the same thing over and over till a system or a cycle emerges – reflection is a process.

In the classic Harvard Business Review article, Manage Oneself, Peter Drucker wrote:

Whenever you make a decision or take a key decision, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the results with what you expected.

Now that you know how to enlist self for reflection, here are example questions to consider asking yourself. 

1. What are my wins? This is based on whatever goals and timeline you choose: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually.

2. What went wrong? This is your learning opportunity, so be sincere with yourself for herein lies the real insights you need.

3. What needs to improve or change? Choose two or three actionable items to work on that align with your overall objectives. Execute these actions to move you forward to the desired outcomes.

Bringing it all together

Reflection demands one to learn to go slow to go first. It is the sure path to lead self and others effectively. A clearing process – reflection allows the thinker to consider whether he or she is headed towards the direction of their dreams or not, and to do so in radical candour if they are to grow.

Becoming more effective as one becomes more reflective.

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Carolyne is the founding principal at VPF Strategies, a strategic and leadership development firm helping professionals and leaders design and develop growth strategies to meet their goals: Thriving Wellness, Cultures and Businesses. She is a speaker, author of Being Grounded: 21 Days To Come Alive and Love Your Life, and a contributing writer for various publications.

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