I am a big believer in the process of active self-reflection. To really improve yourself you must look closely at yourself and see the good, bad, worth and ugliness. We are all made up of grey areas. There are parts to us that are sometimes good, sometimes bad. If we don’t understand when it moves from good to bad we won’t know our limits. If we don’t know our limits we are likely to put ourselves (or others) into situations that are not going to turn out how we would want.
Self-reflection is difficult because it forces us to try to understand our own motivations and actions. For myself, it often causes quite a bit of dissonance between the way others talk about me versus the way I see myself. I know myself as flawed and in need of improvement but they may see someone trying hard to do the right things even if something doesn’t work out as expected.
The active piece is just as important in the process. All of us do self-reflection when we screw up or something goes wrong. We try to make sure we don’t repeat the bad thing that just happened. But we should also be reflecting after a random phone call to mom to make sure we are being the right son for the moment and considering the impact of our words in a mundane situation.
This is no different than being a great salesperson but just doing it all the time. The best salespeople I have ever seen know the impact of every word that they use. They know exactly how the person they are meeting with will likely respond to a certain phrase or providing pricing too soon or the way they dress for the meeting or the way they hold their arms. That salesperson has reflected on the impact of every single one of their actions to make themselves as effective as possible.
This is the same concept but taken more broadly. What you’ll find is that as soon as you really begin to understand yourself and your own motivations, you will also begin to better understand others and their motivations and reactions. It’s a pretty cool circle to experience.