It's Always Time for Self Reflection
“I’m out of integrity with myself.”
The first time I heard those words was from my friend Teresa Roche in 2009. Back then, I was struck by her words, mainly because I had never even considered what they meant.
Today, those words are profoundly meaningful to me — not in an abstract, theoretical way, but in a concrete, substantive way that I apply on a daily basis.
There’s so much in life that demands that we “comply” in one way or another. Social norms, legal constructs, family traditions, religious beliefs, organizational cultures. Through overused and often unkind social media platforms, there’s an endless supply of comparisons against which we measure ourselves.
What Teresa was arguing was the need to de-emphasize external metrics and concentrate more on the most fundamental measure: Are you true to yourself?
A quick related story: Early in my career, I was certified to teach SPIN Selling, a research-based sales methodology developed by Neil Rackham. One of the core principles revolved around persuasion and how humans decide to change. The fundamental understanding: People change when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.
There’s plenty of social science research that explains this. Humans crave certainty and safety, and our natural biological reaction is to perceive change as a threat. It is easier to see how this applies to external situations such as jobs, careers, relationships or communities. We stay in unproductive situations longer than we should, and in hindsight we can see it more clearly.
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However, it’s not quite so clear when we look within ourselves. The external pressures to behave, to achieve, to express ourselves are so strong that the mid-life crisis is a well-known phenomenon. And like many other aspects of life, COVID-19 managed to shine a bright light on issues that had been ignored, including understanding the meaning and purpose in our lives.
Now back to Teresa’s self-integrity challenge. Rackham’s change principle also can be used for self-reflection. Is the current path and trajectory that you’re on giving you the meaning and fulfillment you desire in life? Is the delta between where you are and where you want to be so significant that it’s no longer sustainable? Is the pain of change less than the pain of staying the same?
On a practical level, living in self-integrity comes down to two major factors: how you use your time and the choices you make. If you’re like most of us, you don’t have complete control over either of these factors. But when you do, here are some practical questions you can ask yourself to promote greater self-integrity:
- How aligned are your actions with your beliefs?
- Do your contributions represent the highest and best use of your time?
- Which relationships in your life support/detract from your goals or purpose?
- How can you positively impact others?
- Are your actions enabling you to be true to yourself?
As you can read in Teresa’s words below, understanding others begins with understanding yourself. It’s a never-ending challenge as life is always changing, but much like anything that requires maintenance and care, you should take the time to listen to yourself and find ways everyday to honor who you are.
Teresa Roche is the Chief Human Resources Officer of the City of Fort Collins, a fellow at Harvard University’s Learning Innovations Laboratory, and a member of the Colorado State University Human Resource Executive Network.
I define leadership as an approach to one’s life and not as a position one holds, and often the question I ask myself is, “Who am I to lead?”
I believe leadership in life is a journey and, like all grand adventures, involves discovery along the way.
I have also come to believe that the most significant discovery involved in this journey is that of self — to know who you are, what motivates you, what your abilities are — having an accurate view of your strengths and challenges and how they play out within the organizational requirements and circumstances one faces in all aspects of life.
Simply put, leaders need to understand themselves before they can understand others.
As you learn about yourself, you can pay attention, interpret the signals and make meaning of them to apply these insights appropriately. The feedback gathered from myriad ways allows one to become a continuous learner, benefiting from new experiences and transferring to new situations, improving one’s effectiveness and fulfillment in life.
I personally have found that having self-insight allows me to know when I am off, and if I’m not centered, how I can get back on track, as that is where real power lies.
About the Author
Mary Slaughter is the Global Head of Employee Experience at Morningstar, an investment research and management firm headquartered in Chicago, IL. Prior to joining Morningstar, she served as a managing director, People Advisory Services at EY.