18th July 2023
The Four As of Personal Reflection
“I will keep constant watch over myself and, most usefully, will put each day up for review.” Epictetus
Humans have long known the benefits of self-reflection. It empowers you to make conscious choices, develop self-improvement strategies, and create a positive trajectory for personal and professional growth. Putting the day up for review is central to personal learning or as Seneca put it “What really ruins our character is the fact that none of us looks back over their life.”
Now, it is all well and good to put the day, the week, the month up for review, but there is one problem experienced by many well-intentioned people: Where do I start? How do I start? In our experience, without an effective framework well, let’s face it; the temptation will be to say, “ahh that was good enough”.
Here’s a simple starting framework we call the Four As of Personal Reflection. The As are:
There are two types of Awareness. Self-Awareness and Environmental Awareness.
Self-Awareness, the cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence, is about understanding ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, and what triggers the emotional states we find ourselves in. Being self-aware, we can reflect on our talents and contributions to every relationship; family, friends, colleagues, customers, and more.
When we reflect on our communication styles, biases, and triggers, we can tweak our interactions with others with a view to being more empathetic. This leads to strong relationships based on trust and respect. In other words, the self-aware person can reflect on something that went well or poorly and ponder what they would do again, do differently, or never do again.
Environmental awareness is as big as you want it to be. External awareness is about taking stock of what’s going on around you. Reflecting on the (sometimes minute) shifts your environment is key to ensuring you don’t fail for some reason you should have reasonably foreseen – if you’d just taken the time to think about it.
Reflecting on AWARENESS starts by asking:
What’s going on? No seriously, what’s really truly ruly going on?
What patterns are emerging in how others respond to me?
Acceptance of difficult feedback fosters personal development by promoting emotional resilience, learning and growth, empathy, and personal transformation.
Until we accept the truth about ourselves, we will get on with defending our thinking, our beliefs, our actions, our behaviours, and our decisions. Acceptance helps us distinguish between the things we can’t control and those things we control or want to influence. Acceptance allows us to embrace new perspectives and the opportunities for improvement to take meaningful steps towards becoming the best version of ourselves.
Reflecting on ACCEPTANCE starts by asking:
What have I done that has contributed to this occurring?
What must I start doing, stop doing or do differently?
Agency is one step beyond autonomy and is the capacity and power to act and exert influence in the world. It is the extent to which you make choices, take initiative, and have an impact on your environment. Agency encompasses not only decision-making and action within the workplace but also extends to a broader context of personal empowerment and self-determination.
Demonstrating agency is a proactive approach to personal leadership. Rather than passively reacting to external forces, agency means you take charge and drive yourself, your team, your customers, and your organisation forward. This proactive mindset is vital in today’s landscape, where organisations need to be agile and adaptable to stay ahead. To have agency, you need a clear sense of purpose and direction and actively work towards achieving your goals.
Reflecting on AGENCY starts by asking:
Have I put myself into a position where I am the one calling the shots?
Did I seek out the chance to take action on the opportunity or the issue?
Accountability is about being answerable for the outcomes and results of our actions and decisions. It is the obligation to justify and take responsibility for our performance and the impact of our work on personal or organisational goals. Accountability involves being transparent, reliable, and delivering on commitments made to oneself, colleagues, and the organisation.
We know that when people take accountability for their decisions and actions, it sets a powerful example for the people we lead and the people around us by showing that we are willing to stand behind our choices, even in challenging or unfavourable circumstances. Trust and integrity anyone?
Reflecting on ACCOUNTABILITY starts by asking:
What bold stand(s) have I taken and have I done what I said I would?
Am I owning the results or has there been justification, denial or deflection?
Personal leadership is not a fixed thing. It can evolve. And like other important practices such as exercise, meditation, and giving thanks, reflection on how we operate is something we should all do. Some of us do these things every day, some less often, no matter. Just doing it will enhance your performance and your wellbeing.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl