The magnifying power of self-reflection

The magnifying power of self-reflection

The magnifying power of self-reflection
By Pete Hall

If I were to tell you there’s one rather simple, replicable behavior that could lead to remarkable success in whatever venture you pursued, how would you respond? Would you reply by asking if I’m also offering to sell you a piece of the Brooklyn Bridge? Well, indeed there is such a behavior, and if the title of this blog didn’t give it away, let me be straightforward:

Mastering the art of self-reflection will help you meet whatever goal you’ve set for yourself. A hundred times over.

Self-reflection? You might say, incredulously. You mean there’s an art to thinking about things? Then I’d clarify:

Self-reflection, simply defined, is the discipline of focusing your mental energy on your goals, making intentional decisions in order to achieve the goals, paying attention to the results of your actions, and determining the modifications necessary to improve the outcomes.

As you hone your reflective habits, you increase your skills, and in a repetitively expanding and strengthening pattern, you develop both simultaneously. This pattern, first published in the teachers’ handbook Teach, Reflect, Learn and expanded upon in Pursuing Greatness, is called the Reflective Cycle, and it describes the repeated behaviors of thought that we all follow as we learn something, develop our skills, and progress towards expertise. The steps of this Reflective Cycle are rather predictable (starting in the top-right quadrant of the diagram below, and following clockwise):

  • Build awareness. What is your goal? What outcome do you desire? What is your current state of affairs?
  • Make intentional decisions. What do you need to learn? What next steps must you take? What are you going to do to move forward?
  • Assess & analyze your impact. After taking that step, what changed? Have you improved? What’s different now?
  • Become responsive. What new questions have surfaced? What worked that you can repeat, and what didn’t work that you can discard?

This simple pattern is repeated, ad infinitum, until you hit mastery…at which point you realize there’s even more growth potential then you ever imagined, and you continue to push forward. Your potential for excellence, it turns out, is an asymptote: the closer you get to it, the greater your potential expands.

Developing rich habits of strategic self-reflection is like having a skeleton key to unlock all your goals, dreams, targets, ambitions, and endeavors. It simply requires discipline to build those habits.

Now you ask, Does this pattern of self-reflection lead us to success in any field? In any profession?

Not only can you experience tremendous success in whatever job – or element of your job – you want, this pattern of thinking is the secret key to unlocking success in just about any aspect of your life. Want to lose weight? Eat better? Improve relationships? Barbeque more effectively? Focus your self-reflective energy on the goal – and keep it there as you mentally spin through the Reflective Cycle – and see for yourself.

There must be an app for that, you quip.

Yes, sure, there’s an app for everything. However, here’s the rub: you can focus simply on self-reflection if you want to. You know, reflect on your ability to reflect. However, if you truly want to improve a skill, master a technique, attain a goal, or surpass an expectation, you’ve got to reflect on that outcome. Think of it like this: You can download a self-reflection app, and that’d be great. Or you could update your operating system by strengthening your self-reflective behaviors, and you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of every single app in your collection! Self-reflection isn’t an app; rather, it’s the platform upon which all the other apps operate.

So the next time you’re attempting to meet a goal, trying to learn something new, or aiming to improve your practice somehow, don’t just do things and hope that leads to improvement. Instead, reflect – and reflect very intentionally – on the entire growth process:

  • Pay attention to your goals. Be clear on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Survey your options and decide upon the path most likely to yield success, and stay true to that decision as you begin to take deliberate actions.
  • Assess your impact by analyzing the cause-and-effect relationship between what you did and the results you got.
  • Respond accordingly: if the results were great, keep going or ramp it up; if the results didn’t measure up, adapt and adjust as needed.

Repeat this pattern as many times as you need until you achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself. By engaging in frequent, accurate, deep self-reflection in an intentional manner, you’re setting yourself up for success. Over and over again.

Pete Hall is the President/CEO of Strive Success Solutions. You can reach him via email at

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