Luckily I’ve just had the regular flu, as opposed to man flu which I hear would have had me confined to bed for at least another three days. But the non-negotiable down time has been handy if I tell the truth – sometimes we all just need a bit of space to navel gaze.
In fact, one of the things that I preach on super regular basis to clients is the importance of self-reflection. Not the variety where we get in tune with the Earth and ‘discover’ our ‘god-given’ talents and purpose, but the reflection that builds our insight.
But how is insight useful in building our careers and lives? And more importantly: how do we self-reflect without becoming a wanker?
At its core, insight is simply a deep understanding of how something (or someone….such as ourselves) works. Insight is pretty imperative for successful decision making in almost all areas of our lives – I mean, we’ve all got examples of decisions that have been made in the absence of insight – like running through 4 employers in the same industry because we’re looking for a better fit without taking into account that we’re not suited to the industry itself (reeeeealllly common scenario – I hear it almost every week).
"In terms of career and life decisions, we are able to take paths that we are more suited to and will therefore carry much greater fulfilment for us. We are more likely to have longevity, because we are working with our natural tendencies rather than against them"
Building insight is actually quite easy, and doesn’t have to be wanky at all….unless you’re already that way inclined (in which case, by building your insight you’ll discover you’re a wanker, and will be able to put some strategies in place to manage that).
Set aside some time and space for constructive navel gazing. Get a pen and paper, and take an inventory on areas like your likes, dislikes, successes, failures, natural strengths, formal qualifications and areas of training, personality traits, things you find difficult – the aim is to be building a ‘map’ of who you are. And while we’re going to ask for input of others in a little while, the whole point of insight is that you understand who you are, so you will need to do this step on your own. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answers here – we’re all different!
Consider others. Imagine you were going to ask others how they perceive you. Ask yourself “what would my neighbour say about me?” Now repeat this for friend, partner, child, colleague etc – but remember, this exercise is about developing insight and not your paranoia, so contain the question to maybe one or two descriptive words/phrases. Example – I think my neighbour would likely say that I’m friendly, with a love of 80’s music.
Two-way conversation. Now’s the time to ask for some feedback from those we love, which can be interesting, confronting, and invaluable. So often I’ve done insight-building exercises with clients who have self-described as spontaneous and random, and when they’ve returned the following week having sought feedback from loved ones advise me that feedback they received included being described as ‘routine driven’ or ‘gets panicked without a plan’. Sometimes we can record the person that we want to be perceived as rather than who we actually are – the process of building insight can help us identify a disconnect there and be more authentic in our future decision making.
Collate the big picture and reap the rewards. By building our insight and developing a multifaceted understanding of who we are, we are empowering ourselves to be more honest in our choices, and educated in our decisions. In terms of career and life decisions, we are able to take paths that we are more suited to and will therefore carry much greater fulfilment for us. We are more likely to have longevity, because we are working with our natural tendencies rather than against them.
Now obviously this is the very simplified, starter’s guide to building insight, but whether you’re out of bed like me, or in bed with the flu or a day off - today is a great day to start the journey of getting to know you, and making better decisions in your career and life!
Seriously – get to it lady!
Lauren is the resident Careergony Aunt, and founder of Headstrong Women. She’s a passionate mojo seeker, rehab counsellor and career development expert who loves nothing more than empowering women to make educated choices in their careers and lives. Outside of work, Lauren is a bad ukulele player, opinionated book clubber, and is owned by an elderly Turkish Van.