Developing yourself professionally and personally is hard work, and the rewards for this work aren’t always immediately obvious. Learning new skills, improving your professional relationships, and building your leadership skills takes time and continuous mental effort. Even high performing, successful leaders continually work on professional and personal development in order to reach their goals.
Whenever I work with a coaching client, my main goal is to increase their self-awareness. As busy professionals, we often fail to meet even easily obtainable goals because we are unaware of or choose to ignore our own behaviours. As Aristotle so eloquently put it,
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Thus the key to developing lasting, effective change is to develop strong self-awareness. And the best way to promote self-awareness is to understand our life story, create a daily habit of self-reflection, and seek honest feedback.
Build your narrative
Our narrative identity is the story of our life. For better or for worse, the stories we tell ourselves don’t just shape our personalities, they are our personalities. How we tell our story frames the way we behave and accomplish goals. Unfortunately, many times our narrative only strengthens our weaknesses rather than building our strengths.
When looking at your narrative, ask yourself some key questions, such as, what people, events, and experiences have had the greatest impact in shaping who I am? In which experiences did I feel the greatest passions as a leader? How have I framed the major setbacks in my life?
Once you understand your narrative you can start to rewrite your story in a way that frames setbacks as opportunities for growth.
Create a regular habit of self-reflection
Mindfulness and meditation are excellent ways to reflect on your life. Many experts recommend waking up just thirty minutes earlier than usual and using this time for reflection or meditation. Some means of self-reflection include journaling, taking long walks, or exercising regularly.
Your self-awareness is developed by taking the time to reflect on personal events, understanding how you reacted, and what emotions were present. This helps you build a rich source of data and information about your behaviours and how they help or hinder your professional development, and can also point toward areas in which you’d like to grow or change.
Ask yourself, what three things went well today? What three things am I grateful for? What did I learn today? What did I enjoy? Practising daily reflection helps you identify what is working and what isn’t and will help you become more effective in both professional and personal aspects of your life.
Seek honest feedback
We all have blind spots, traits that others see in us that we don’t see in ourselves. Do you see yourself as others see you? Unfortunately, receiving feedback is hard, even when it is delivered without judgement. Our friends, colleagues and family instinctively hesitate to provide objective feedback. As much as they care for us, they often wish to avoid conflict or hurt feelings. If you aren’t using a professional counsellor or coach, ask a trusted colleague or friend to give you honest feedback. Be sure to let them know you’re coming to them with a willingness to listen and an open mind.
Good self-awareness takes time to develop, and even when we know our blindspots and biases, we still can be trapped by them. We tend to tell ourselves a story that hides self-revealing truths. By working on reflection and self-awareness, we can gain a different perspective that allows us to rewrite our story in a more objective, realistic and positive way. Professional development is a lifelong journey of self-discovery and self-challenge.
If you are looking to develop yourself professionally in 2017, why not book a free coaching session to help you get started? Whatever your goals and challenges in 2017 might be, know that there is always an opportunity for growth or a fresh start. I wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.