I recently discovered this TED talk by Tasha Eurich about self-reflection.
Unsurprisingly, she says that “people who are self-aware are more fulfilled, they have stronger relationships… they’re more confident… they perform better at work…”. The list goes on. You’d expect that self-reflection would be the key to self-awareness, but what surprised her is that the WAY we self-reflect makes a huge difference.
Her research showed that being too introspective and asking ourselves ‘Why’ (E.g. ‘Why do I feel so unhappy about work?’ or ‘Why did I make that bad decision on my project?’ or ‘Why is this happening to me?’) can make us “more stressed and depressed… less satisfied with our jobs… less in control”, as it forces us to look backwards.
She found that using ‘What’ (E.g. ‘What are the specific things that make me feel unhappy at work?’ or ‘What can I do to improve this?’) makes us look to the future and feel more in control of our lives… and become truly self-aware.
Have a think about the way you are reflecting? Are you stuck in the past, over-analysing why you did things, why you chose that career path, why you didn’t take that promotion, why you shouted at your colleague, why you didn’t get that job? Does changing ‘why’ for ‘what’ give you more valuable self-reflection and help you feel more in control of your future?
Here are some ideas for alternative ‘what’ questions when you are stuck in a cycle of ‘whys’?
What’s the most important thing about work for me now?
What specific things make me feel anxious/stupid/unhappy/xxx at work and what is the theme here?
What can I say to my boss/colleague/friend/xxx to improve the relationship?
What have I learnt from this? What new knowledge will I use next time?
What is one simple thing I can do to improve this situation?