Self Reflect to Success
I love listening to others, especially young adults, about their dreams. Not that I am a crazy guy trying to mess with their minds, but my sarcastic nature (I prefer calling that dark humour) often drives these young people (and grown ups too) through the roof. What I find out is the lack of self reflection in general among many people today. In fact, it looks like a trend that the ability of self reflect has been in decline for many years already.
You can Accomplish Anything
This motto, “you can accomplish anything”, is promoted in primary school in Canada and United States for years. It is hardwired into so many people that many middle age people still talking about this themselves and pass the same message to their kids. The harm of this belief is so great that I often wonder if the first person who promoted the concept is an extremely evil person who wished the world to collapse.
Young adults who think big often bullshit themselves into believing that they can accomplish anything. The problem, however, is that they never really tally up what they are capable of and focus on developing skills and expertise in the field they think they will achieve success. The very idea of them dominating the world already gives them the high they wanted so no actions are really taken to get them to where they think they can be.
So when I ask the simple question, “How do you think you are going to get there?”, most of these young adults fail to give me a concrete game plan. I will say less than 10% among those whom I asked this question has a plan. And only 10% within this group has a reasonable game plan. Hence, my follow up explanations on why they will never get what they want often results in very negative responses. The response I hear most often is that they are not going to be judged by me and my being not believing in them tells them I am a bad person.
Notice that I am not giving them advice. All I am doing is helping them to clarify their thought process. Of course everyone would have blind spots and unrealistic assumptions with their beliefs. That is not a problem. The problem is whether the person has the ability to accept the fact their they may not have all the answers to what they are trying to pursuit.
In short, inability to self reflect is the primary reason why many people fails to achieve greater success in life.
Self Reflection is Against Human Nature
Majority of the time, when we have met with massive failures, the natural response is to blame the others and the circumstances instead of accepting the failure being our own creation. Western psychology gives this many fancy descriptions like the self defense mechanism of our ego. Eastern philosophy, however, pinpoint this down to one simple thing, pride. In Asian culture, educated people traditionally are often made aware of this tendency so that they do not make decisions without proper self checking. This approach to life is also common in Western culture centuries ago. Nowadays, however, it is rarely seen that people make this a priority in their lives. The modern education system pretty much completely wiped out the teaching of the importance of many virtues that matters most.
So how do we develop practical self reflection that works for us?
First, you have to understand that it is a training of our minds. It takes time to rewire our brains to accept the fact that we do not understand everything and we are not going to make the best decisions all the time. Such beliefs can only be accepted completely when we no longer exaggerate our importance within the world. I dare to say even the best meditators or trained monks cannot always keep themselves from making mistakes due to lack of self reflection. Hence, it is a life long process to keep ourselves in check.
Second, the more we pay attention to the need of the others, the more likely we are able to see our own shortcomings. The term self reflect has the hidden meaning of being able to measure our behaviour objectively. If we never pay attention on what others do and the outcomes from their decisions, we will have a hard time to find the proper yardstick to measure the quality of our own decisions and behaviours.
Third, seeing things as they are, not overly optimistic or pessimistic, is hard unless you are very knowledgeable on the subject you are dealing with. Hence, developing expertise on the particular subjects that affect our lives most is very important in shaping our ability to self reflect.
The more challenging the career one wants to pursuit, the more important the self reflection skill is needed. I call it a skill because it is something that takes time to develop and practices to sharpen it into a state that is useful. For those interested in creating their own businesses or getting into professional trading, I would say self reflection is of equal if not more important than self discipline.
After all, we are all competing for limited resources in the society. Our ability to excel in our field depends on the skill sets we have. Obviously, those who can see their own weaknesses and learn to correct mistakes before they become costly will have a shorten path to success.
I have the luck to meet with many very successful entrepreneurs and professionals in their fields. One thing that stands out among these people is their ability to limit the mistakes they make in their careers. Their paths to success is not what most people think how they get there. The romantic idea of making huge bets and taking huge risk does not apply to them. My conjecture is that majority of people who achieve greater success than the others come from their ability to self improve through consistent self reflection. Over time, they optimize themselves into winning machines comparing to the others in the same field.