How Self-Reflection Might Limit Potential
Self-reflection done poorly distorts reality and limits potential.
Real self-reflection exceeds navel gazing like rib eye steak exceeds veggie burgers.
I’ve had the plant-based Impossible Burger at Burger King. Someone told me it’s pet food for humans, but it’s tasty. It’s so meat-like some vegetarians get queasy eating it.
Perhaps our grandchildren will print steak with a 3D printer, but for now, give me a real rib eye charred on a blazing grill.
Self-fascination leaves us head-down in a narrow hole chewing on artificial realities.
Self-reflection and others:
Self-reflection done in isolation is like a meat eater chewing an Impossible Burger. It’s satisfying until you learn it’s an imposter.
The effect of isolated self-reflection is self-confident distortion.
Since my mid-twenties, people have said, “You make me think.” It surprised me. I’ve learned that making people think isn’t something I try to do. It’s who I am. It’s my contribution.
The real meat of self-reflection includes others. Self-reflection that excludes others propagates the perversion that we are the center of the universe.
We understand ourselves in contribution, not isolation.
Self-reflection and feelings:
If self-reflection always makes you feel good, you’re doing it wrong. Perhaps the goal of meditation is inner peace. But real self-reflection is painful sometimes.
When the goal of self-reflection is affirmation and comfort, self-centeredness is the motivation.
Activities that promote self-importance limit potential. (Confidence yes. Self-importance no.)
4 reflection questions:
- What contribution reoccurs in your interactions?
- How do you leave people when you walk away?
- How are people better after interacting with you? Worse?
- What do people – who know you – repeatedly say about you? What if they’re right?
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confucius
How might leaders elevate the practice of self-reflection above self-centered naval gazing?
How might the practice of self-reflection multiply contribution?
The Right Way to be Introspective (Yes, There’s a Wrong Way) (Ideas.TED)
Hi Dan! when I was a child, my Grandfather taught me to “take inventory of your life periodically, review and enjoy the good things you have done and experienced, but take all necessary actions needed to correct problems and deficiencies”. His words meant so much to me back then and throughout my life, and have greatly helped me achieve a wonderful and successful career and life.
Thanks Sam. It seems your grandfather lives in you. What a delight!
“Taking inventory,” is a great strategy for self-reflection. Your comment reminds me that there are several ways to engage in useful self-reflection.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confucius; Interesting, I believe I’ve evolved to “by experience’ by reflection then imitation and what I’ve found is I need to continuously reflect, imitate (with adjustment and rebirth) to make my experience relevant, forward and certainly NOT bitter. So maybe Confucius is really saying you need all three?
Thanks Roger. You got me thinking about the power of example. Two types of people have fueled growth in my life. The first type I’ll call lovers. They care for me and through their caring I’m changed. The other type are models. They might not know me that well but their example has changed me.
Self-reflection magnifies their impact on my life and motivates me to be more like them.
Start with some 360 feedback.
Take one piece or theme of the feedback you receive. Go off privately and think about it.
ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, DIVIDE
1. What could I add to this behavior to make it more effective?
2. What could I subtract or eliminate from this behavior to make it more effective?
3. How could I multiply this behavior and use in other situations?
4. How can I divide up this behavior and focus on what’s most important?
Thanks Paul. A system aids progress. Love the math technique.
Of the four, #4 speaks loudest to me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the idea of breaking something down into a simple, actionable behavior that appeals to me.
Good questions. Perhaps some additional question (again, to move beyond meaningless navel-gazing) would be, “What insights do I take from this reflection? How can I use them? What do I want to stop, start, or continue doing as a result?”
Thanks Veronica. The “stop” question always excites me, not because I don’t like doing things. It excites me because I like EFFECTIVE/EFFICIENT action.
My capacity to grind has a down side. I can keep doing something when I should stop.
When an ailment persists and the doctor tells you to keep doing the same thing, it’s time to find a new doctor.
Our pool develops pink mold. The pool store people prescribed the traditional solution, but it didn’t work. After three tries I said to my wife, it’s time to ignore their advice. We chose a different path that is cheeper and the results are at least as good as the previous method. We decided to flush the filter more frequently.
Stopping gives us room to try something else.
Gave the new perspective to it. Thanks for sharing. It’s really helpful.
Thanks Ignite. Best wishes.
Your newsletter is in my must-read file – it always speaks to me like a good pastor on a Sunday morning! Thanks for your insight and inspiration!
I like Roger’s thoughts as an insight (as to the meaning of the quote), and Paul’s thoughts as to utility (as a way to go about it).
Reflection is one of those words that has come to mean the opposite of what it was coined for (Janus word/contronym/autoantanym), same as evolution. It makes it difficult to convey the actual meaning as intended.
I proffer Confucius alternatively:
“Wisdom is won:
First, by contemplation, which is the most principled;
second, by appearance, which is the norm; and
third, by experience, in which our thoughts, appearances, and reality engage.”
A friend who was a circuit judge once told me her process for judgement from the bench:
“in principle, BE fair.
If you can’t be fair, LOOK fair.
If you can’t look fair, ACT fair.”
Kinda gives meaning to Gahndi’s,
“Be the change you want to see.”
(Captures the drive for integrity we strive for, methinks.)
Knowing some of the reflective questions you should ask yourself can help you get the most out of this practice. Your questions should target your being, including your happiness, strengths, and weaknesses. Do you remember the last time you took the time to reflect on your life? If you haven’t been for a long time, then this blog Reasons to Make Time for Self-Reflection is for you.
Great article on the importance of self-reflection and how it can limit potential. It is important to note that self-reflection and introspection are closely related but different. Self-reflection is the process of thinking about one’s own experiences, thoughts and feelings. While introspection is the process of self-examination that involves looking inward and gaining insight into one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Introspection is a deeper process of self-awareness that can help individuals to identify and understand the root causes of their actions, patterns of behavior and help them to make informed decisions. To learn more about introspection and its benefits, you can check out the blog post https://productive.fish/blog/introspection/