November 21, 2018

Lesson #1: Reflection — How Self-aware Are You?

Great leaders, first and foremost, know themselves.

Some of the biggest leadership challenges occur within us. It’s either our egos, insecurities, fears or doubts that create poor leadership decisions. Breaking yourself of this habit will take work, hard work.

Just like a marathoner has to train for a marathon, so must the leader train. The more you sweat and strain, the more pain you feel and the more leadership miles you put it, the easier leading will become. Every endurance athlete on the planet knows that.

For some of us, it’s going to be tough. We are not used to self-coaching or introspection but those skills are a must.

This lesson is just a brief introduction to reflection and being self-aware. Usually, these sorts of things take years to master but don’t worry so much about that. Remember, the journey begins with taking that first step.

Reflection Shows Us Solutions

Reflection is the art of thinking about your actions and how they affect the world. There is nothing magical about reflection — people have been doing it for thousands of years.

Reflection makes us step outside ourselves and see the world differently. We stop being self-absorbed and strive to understand how we feel, think and react to internal and external stimulus.

By reflecting on a situation and behaviors, we dig deeper and grasp some of the underlying realities that only surface when we take the time to contemplate and ponder the situation.

It’s this act of free thinking that will produce some of your best solutions to problems.

Simple Reflection Techniques

Reflection is simple to do but hard to master. The primary reason mastery eludes us is we often times don’t want to admit we have flaws or things we need to work on. This attitude leads us to distract ourselves by filling our lives with mundane or busy tasks. We also start to blame others when things go wrong. All these behaviors muddle your mind and you end up not having time to reflect and focus.

Calming your mind so that you can reflect and focus takes practice. Listed below are a few simple techniques that will help you reflect.

  • Schedule quite time alone: Set aside time for yourself everyday to reflect and think about your day.

  • Walk the dog or just walk: Walking is a great way to decompress from the day and relax and reflect.

  • Wander in the woods: The woods can be tranquil and calming. It’s a great place to wander around and just be. By being you can calm your mind. By calming, you can then start reflecting on how your day or life is going.

  • Exercise: Doing something physical frees your mind and allows you to be in the moment. Exercise is also a great way to get in tune with your body and how it works. It also teaches you something about your limits.

  • Meditate: Mediation is a wonderful way to be in the moment. After meditation, your mind is clearer and ready for reflection.

  • Dance: Like exercise, movement through dance can be liberating. It allows you to free your body, which in turn, frees your mind.

  • Keep a journal: Putting your thoughts on paper will liberate them from your mind and put them in a safe place for later reflection. These journal entries are a great starting point for issues that you need to work on. By journaling, you give yourself permission to recognize your emotions and feelings without the anxiety of having to solve them all right away.

Reflection Leads to Self-awareness

As you reflect on yourself and how you interact with others, you will start to figure out what triggers cause certain emotions. Emotions are normal but being too emotional can get you into a lot of trouble.

As a leader, you need to first and foremost, remain calm and confident. Without these traits, your supporters will question whether you can lead.

By understanding what makes you anxious, fearful, sad, angry, joyful or peaceful, you can catch yourself before your emotions get the better of you.

This does not mean you have to be an emotionless robot. Emotions play an important part (we’ll talk about that in the demeanor lesson) in leadership and dealing with your emotions will be a huge part of that.

As you become self-aware, you will start to see trends that you never saw before. Situations will become more about solving the problem at hand then getting all riled up about it.

Your mood will change. Your decisions will become clearer. People will notice a certain air about you.

These are the sure signs that you are starting to understand what makes you tick. As with leading anyone, you must understand what makes your supporters tick. What keeps them up at night. What are their dreams. Who do they look up to.

By answering these questions for ourselves, we open ourselves up to lead others to success.

Take-away: Leading yourself starts with reflecting on your attitudes, emotions and fears. Starting today, reflect on how you can lead yourself better.

Things to Ponder

  1. Make a list of what keeps you up at night? Beside each item, give a brief description as to why those things give you anxiety.

  2. List your top 5 dreams. Beside each dream, put a single task you can do today to achieve it.

  3. Write a paragraph on the last time you got angry. What set you off and why?

  4. Schedule 10 minutes of alone time, everyday. During this time, don’t read, don’t surf the Internet and don’t talk to anyone. Sit and relax. Think about your day.

  5. Stand on a busy street corner and observe other people. Look for specific details on what they are doing. Do you do some of those things as well?

  6. Keep a journal where you can write your thoughts. Strive to write a paragraph a day about what you feel, think and experience.

Exploring Further

  • A nice list of questions to ask yourself to see how self-aware you are.

  • A wonderfully simple post on the power of breath

  • A detailed article about how to starting journaling

  • A simple meditation technique

This post is part of a series called Leading from Within, a FREE course on how to lead your most important supporter — you. If you landed here via other means (like Google, Twitter or a friend), you can learn more about the course and sign up here.