The Self-Reflection Sandwich

Bias to action results in drama, disappointment, and crisis apart from systematic self-reflection.

The truth about self-reflection:

I erred on the side of too little reflection most of my life. I actually spent lots of time thinking, but I didn’t reflect.

I thought about things I wanted FROM others. THEY often disappointed.

I didn’t reflect on MY leadership. I wasn’t thinking about MY attitudes and behaviors. THEY needed to change.

Self-reflection is only useful when followed by thoughtful action. 

The self-reflection sandwich:

Bread represents action in the reflection sandwich. Peanut butter represents reflection. There’s much more bread than peanut butter. But without peanut butter, all you have is useless navel-gazing.

ACTION → reflection → ACTION

Reflection without action:

When things are going poorly, reflection WITHOUT action produces:

  1. Discouragement.
  2. Self-pity.
  3. Sulking.
  4. Helplessness.
  5. Frustration.
  6. Disappointment.
  7. Bitterness.

When things are going well, reflection WITHOUT action produces:

  1. Self-congratulation.
  2. Lack of gratitude.
  3. Entitlement.
  4. Complacency.
  5. Overconfidence.
  6. Stagnation.
  7. Arrogance.

Action and reflection are balanced when:

  1. Self-knowledge leads to authentic action.
  2. Pattern recognition is a key result.
  3. Personal attitudes and behaviors are the main focus.
  4. Self-knowledge produces confidence and openness.
  5. Personal development is more important than changing others.
  6. Nagging irritations are motivation, not simply frustration.
  7. Humility is both the reason and the result of the process.

A system of ACTION-reflection-ACTION:

Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to do a personal After Action Review (AAR).

  1. What did I plan to accomplish?
  2. What actually occurred?
  3. What went well and why?
  4. What am I learning?
  5. What did I do that makes me proud?
  6. What can be improved and how?
  7. What do I really want?
  8. What’s my greatest value?

Tip: Keep a journal.

What’s the right balance between action and reflection?

What questions would you include on a personal AAR?