Life

Self-Reflection: The Neglected Key to Success

By Jake Freeman

I was cautious. I was afraid. No, the right word would be terrified. I was straight up terrified.

I thought if I was open to criticizing myself, I’d begin to think I was simply average. I felt if I was willing to admit my weaknesses or point out what I struggle with, that I’d lose the edge that helped me thrive and brought me success for so many years of my life.

My mindset was simple: I can ultimately be successful by focusing on my strengths and making them even stronger. I can continue to feel happy if I just let anything that seems difficult fall by the wayside. And I’ll feel the most fulfilled if I keep flourishing doing things I’m confident in and comfortable with.

But how do you become the best version of you?

Definitely not with that type of mentality!

Not by just recognizing what you’re best at. Absolutely not by ignoring your weaknesses. And certainly not by acting like the things you struggle with in life don’t exist.

Clearly, this was a mindset that was simple in the worst of ways. Simple yet mistaken.

A mindset that holds you back; keeps you from reaching your full potential.

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When I was first introduced to self-reflection, it seemed like a chore to me. I wanted no part of it. The criticism, the vulnerability, the humility…no thank you. I wasn’t ready to get real with myself.

Taking a deep look at yourself and being fully transparent about what you need to improve. That’s what makes you stronger, makes you better, and turns you into a more well-rounded person.

Trust me, it’s not an easy thing to do. Like I said, I couldn’t do it at first. Most people can’t. Starting out it’s tedious, it’s stressful, it’s nerve-wracking, and it’s uncomfortable as hell. It takes determination and thick skin to go through a process like this. It takes a desire, an obsession to want to get better.

But it is 100% NECESSARY if you want to be the best YOU.

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Think of it this way:

Everyone is on the go, trying to do hundreds of things at a time, pushing to get a fraction better or an inch closer to their goals. That’s the world we live in. And please, I don’t want you to think you should stop grinding or change your mentality when it comes to the workplace, athletics, hobbies, or whatever you are looking to prosper in. I fully support getting after it every fucking day to reach what you want to reach and become who you want to become. However, in our society, we get so wrapped up in what we’re trying to achieve that we never take a minute, step back, and reflect on what we’ve been doing and how well we’ve been doing it. In my eyes, we can only achieve a certain percentage of our possible success if we don’t evaluate the work we’re putting in, as we go along.

Self-Reflection is a tool that is constantly overlooked. But it can be the key to help you make that next jump, reach that next goal, or reveal an uptick in productivity you didn’t know could exist.

I urge you to make self-reflection a part of your daily process and something you utilize to obtain your goals in an even more efficient manner.

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There are various things that are needed to take on a new practice like this: group interaction, transparency, honesty, and accountability.

These qualities need to become a part of your makeup and things you don’t shy away from to make self-reflection an impactful part of your life.

There are a few different methods of self-reflection but I find these to be the most useful.

 

Group Interaction:

A difficult process like self-reflection is hard to implement alone. It can feel overwhelming trying to attempt it by yourself. While it’s personal preference as to how people would like to reflect, group interaction serves as a comforting way to ease into it. It’s not all about you, as it would be if done individually. Learning to self-reflect and going through this while others are doing it as well takes some of the pressure off, and makes it less frightening. Hearing other people’s weaknesses, problems, and finding out what they’re afraid of allows us to feel more comfortable and confident opening up. It lets us know that we’re not the only one. Other people have struggles they can address to better themselves.

 

Transparent:

Find people who are willing to reveal information and be open about themselves. It is beneficial to the entire group when every member can feel comfortable opening up to those around them. It can be your friends, family, role models, mentors. Tackling this with people close to you will allow everyone to talk about their past experiences, strengths and weaknesses, and what makes them scared/uncomfortable.

 

Honest:

This needs to be an honest process. It’s the only way to really feel the positive effects of self-reflection. Surround yourself with people you know honestly express themselves and won’t hold back from speaking the truth. This works from both an admittance and responsive standpoint. You want to work on this with a group of people who will admit and talk about their greatest fears and weaknesses. But, you also want those same people to respond to you in the most honest way possible. You need them to critique, analyze and offer feedback to you in a way that will benefit you the most. There cannot be any filter or any holding back from the truth or else you won’t grow from it as much as you could.

 

Accountable:

Another reason you want to self-reflect with people close to you is accountability. This part is also easier to do with others than by yourself. The difficult work you put in to express yourself and offer feedback is all being done to achieve your goals and make you more successful. Coming away from these meetings, you want to set goals for yourself, and it is every person’s job in the group to hold each other accountable. You must make sure that what you are doing in your life aligns with the goals you have set for yourself. And it is your partner(s) job to hold you to that standard and make sure you are on that path you have set.

Doing this as part of the group is a way to feel more comfortable and will help you ease your way into the process of self-reflection.

 

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Personal Journaling:

 

Journaling. Keeping a journal is great way to self-reflect. It is the way I self-reflect daily at this point in my life. When I was in college, it was a little more mixed of group self-reflection with my teammates and coaches before practice, and then self-reflecting on my own in my journal each morning. Now I journal every day, and work with my roommates to hold them and myself accountable.

Obviously, not everyone has roommates or people they are around every day so there is more responsibility that goes into holding yourself accountable.

A journal is meant to be one’s own, so the layout can look however you’d like it to.

Again, the same things are paramount for journaling: be transparent with yourself, honest with yourself, and hold yourself accountable.

I put together my journal template trying to have the best possible day I can, while incorporating those 3 principles, and reflecting on the previous day. Take from it what you like, and change it up to make it your own.

Journal template

Gratefulness:

I begin every Journal entry, for every day, by choosing one thing that I am grateful for. One thing I am so grateful and thankful to have in my life goes right in the middle of the page, under the date, written in big capital letters.

My parents, my sister, my friends, my job. The list can go on. It is important not to lose sight of why we do what we do and what motivates us. This serves as a friendly reminder of the things that are most meaningful in your life and gives you a happy feeling to start the process.

 

To-do/Schedule:

Simply enough, this is my space to map out what my day will look like. Breaking it down by each significant event, I know what to expect and what to strive for.

We’ve all heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Let’s prepare our day so we get as much out of it as possible. This is something we can fully control. We can’t set ourselves up to fail.

A normal day of mine would look like this:

9:00- Journal/Visualize – 9:30- Breakfast – 10:00 – Gym -12:00 – Read/Catch up – 12:30- Lunch –   1:30- Write – 3:30- Emails – 4:00- Prep for work – 4:30- Get ready – 5:00- Work – 6:30- Eat dinner @ work – 7:00 – Game Action begins

Straight to the point. Not overly specific. Enough to know what I will be doing so I can go about my day without trying to think about what I need to get to.

We want every day to be more productive than the previous one. Setting a schedule ensures that we’re having an awesome day and not wasting time while we get after it.

 

Goals:

Every day I set a short-term goal and long-term goal. A short term one can be for the day, something I know I want to achieve before my head hits the pillow that night. A long term one can be for the week ahead or for a few weeks down the road.

Mine usually look something like:

STG: “Cleanest diet yet,” “strongest work day yet,” or “complete toughest workout of week.” Something for the day that you know you will be doing that you can strive to have the “best of.”

LTG: “Finish article by Friday,” “No cheat meal all week,” or “complete five 5-minute pushups this week.” We want to focus on keeping a successful pattern throughout the week(s) or reaching a tangible goal that we can finish by the end of whatever timeframe we set.

 

Strength/Weakness:

Self-explanatory, but this is when we start to get real with ourselves and “open up.” Every day I write down something I am good at and something I struggle with. Again, writing down a weakness of mine isn’t to be overly critical or bash my happiness for the day. It’s to acknowledge that the weakness exists and then to recognize that I’m not perfect and there is something I can look to improve that day.

Providing a strength is to give myself confidence and make sure I am asserting that strength during the day and using it to make myself and those around me better.

Examples:

Strength: “Mental toughness to complete difficult workout or maintain a disciplined diet.” Or something like “Ability to interact with coworkers to have most productive work session possible.”

Weakness: Reluctance to ask enough questions or being a “pest” to find out information.” Or “ensure I eat enough even when trying to stick to a strict diet.”

Acknowledge your weaknesses and try to become slightly better at them each day.

 

Self-reflection:

Right in the center of my entry. This section is where I reflect on the day I had before. Honesty and accountability. Writing down exactly what occurred the day before. Did I reach the goals I set for myself? Did I have as productive of a day as I was looking to have? Nothing can be held back.

What it looks like:

-5-minute push-up complete

-Strong diet but eat more early in the day so less hungry at night

-Solid workout, but leave more time so it does not feel at all hurried

-Article should have been done. Time-managing better. Set timeline and stick to it. Finish today

-If throat isn’t feeling well, fucking do what’s necessary to help it (oj, advil, gargle salt water)

-Sleep could be reason (set self up to sleep: exhaust self in workout, no tv show before bed, take melatonin if necessary, read before bed)

-Well done fighting through how you felt to have a successful work night

As you can see, there are both positives and negatives here. This is how we hold ourselves accountable. It can’t be only noticing what you did well. Pointing out the negatives will help you improve the next day and in the coming weeks. Let’s not make the same mistakes twice. The most important part is being fully transparent and honest with yourself about what happened the day before, and how you can change things to have the most productive and successful day possible. We need to approach this with the same detail day in and day out.

Logs:

And on the last column of my journal I keep my logs. Food-log, sleep log, workout log. This is to hold myself accountable as well. As you can see, eating healthy is something I care about. Keeping a food log of exactly what I put in my body that day helps me maintain a strong diet. It holds me accountable and serves as a reminder to stay locked in to the path I’ve set for myself. Writing down that I ate an apple as my snack as opposed to a cookie is far more rewarding. I like to start my food-log each day on a 1-5 scale to evaluate how well I executed the type of diet I wanted to keep.

 

Sleep log is to ensure I am getting enough sleep. I’m not a great sleeper and it’s something I work on, but keeping note of the hours I get helps me realize when I need to get an extra hour or if I am right on schedule. I try to get 6-7 hours of sleep if possible.

 

And lastly is my workout log. Fitness plays a big role in my life. If I’m not putting my body through physical exertion throughout the week, I feel very off. Writing down workouts in my journal serves as a guide to remember what I did the day before, if it was enough, and what I need to focus on in the coming day.

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The final words that go in my journal entry every day are two sayings I try to live by. I would suggest coming up with one or two “mantras” of your own that you can say to yourself each day to start the day.

Mine are:

“Success Is A Mentality,”

and

“Get Uncomfortable.”

I want to attack every single day with a smile on my face and an aspiration to be my best self.

I strive to be successful, but I can’t get there without my mind. My mentality moves me in the right direction and plays a massive role in the type of day I have and how much I achieve throughout it.

Secondly, you can’t become the best version of yourself by staying in your comfort zone.

Try to embrace discomfort and set obstacles to overcome during your day and in your life.

Acknowledge what you can improve on, push yourself through an exhausting workout, have a conversation with a high-up at work who you don’t always get a chance to speak to. These types of endeavors will make you better.

It’s uncomfortable to self-reflect, but let’s not neglect a crucial part of what will help us reach our full potential because it takes us out of our comfort zone.

You’ll be cautious. You’ll be afraid. You’ll be terrified just like I was.

Let’s welcome those feelings. Let’s cherish them. Let’s overcome them.

The Notorious BIG said, “We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves.”

Keep the good, change the bad, make yourself just a bit better every day.

Feel comfortable with the fact that you’re not perfect, but let’s still strive for perfection, strive for greatness, while we try to conquer every second, every minute, and every day of the precious thing we’ve been given called life.

 

Getting COMFY, specifically, is a 5-step morning routine to energize the body and soothe the mind.

Getting COMFY, more broadly, is a movement based on Getting COMFY waking up in the morning, Getting COMFY in your own skin, and Getting COMFY with the rest of your life.

Getting COMFY: Your Morning Guide to Daily Happiness, is a book coming out on January 31st that highlights these ideas.

 

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