“You can’t talk about my co-worker like that!”
“You can’t put him down like that. He is just as valuable and capable as me.”
I felt gut punched. I didn’t understand, but my co-worker was calling me out because he thought I was talking about another teammate. I wasn’t, though. I was putting myself down when I praised him. I wasn’t able to remember little details like he could and I pointed this out in a team meeting. He saw this as an attack on our co-worker. He thought I was putting his friend down. Calling him stupid. I was calling myself stupid, which isn’t much better, but it’s the truth. We had a good conversation and I began to see how my words could be perceived as I was putting down his friend. I felt like a failure as a leader because I wasn’t communicating as well as I would like.
There was a split second where my inner bully almost came raging out because I felt so out of touch with how my actions were being perceived, but I took a moment to appreciate the moment. I thought about how this was a learning moment. I didn’t need to beat myself up over it. A few years ago this moment would have rocked my psyche for days, maybe weeks, but now it’s just a little blip on my emotional richter scale.
Life is not about avoiding mistakes. It’s about failing, learning from it and trying something a little different next time. When you make time to appreciate your accomplishments in life you are more likely to see failure as a chance to learn from instead of something devastating that you can’t bounce back from.
Positive Reflection is a skill that needs to be practiced. It’s so easy to reflect on the negative because it’s how we are wired, but it can hurt our confidence. Since most people are wired for the negative. I teach my clients to focus on their positive accomplishments at the end of the day.
You will probably want to avoid reflection if all you do is worry about how terrible of a person you are. This is exactly what I did each day and it killed my confidence. That’s why positive reflection is such an important skill to practice. When you think about what it was like to donate money to a good cause you are more likely to do it again. You’re remembering these good feelings and are more likely to want to experience these feelings again.
You are fusing positive thoughts into your neural pathways when you make time for positive reflection because as you sleep these neural connections strengthen. You’re encouraging yourself to relax, making it easier to fall asleep and build confidence. You’ll wake up more confident and willing to take action on what’s important to you. It’s truly a win-win practice when done well.
The science also backs me up:
A study of regional cerebral blood flow found that hippocampal areas that were active during route learning in a virtual environment (a hippocampus-dependent, spatial learning task) were active again during subsequent slow-wave sleep (Peigneux et al. 2004). Moreover, the degree of activation during slow-wave sleep correlated with performance on the task the next day(1).
This is kind of a magical way of strengthening your mindset if you practice it before bed each night. It’s a hack that many people don’t leverage. I want this to change.
The people who get back up after being knocked down are able to view their lives from a positive filter. This isn’t easy, but they see their failures as a way to grow stronger and so can you.
Dig a Little Deeper
Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, J.K. Rawling and Thomas Edison all used failure to dig a little deeper.
- “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” — Abraham Lincoln
- “I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan
- “By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew. Now, I’m not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairytale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I felt I truly belonged.” — JK Rawling
- “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” — Thomas A. Edison
We all fail. The better we get at handling failure and even appreciating it, the more resilient we become. This is why making time for positive reflection is so important.
I would like you to try out this reflection process that has helped a lot of people get some really powerful breakthroughs.
At the end of the day ask yourself:
- What did I do well today?
- What could I do a little better tomorrow?
The idea is to not overthink your answers too much. If you think of three things that’s great. If you can only think of one then that’s ok. It takes practice. I’m finally able to think of more than three things without letting my inner bully rage at me.
Here is an recent entry that I’ve made:
- What did I do well today?
- I took some extra time to hug my wife and kids and let them know that I loved them.
- I fumbled at the beginning of my presentation today, but I recovered and the rest of it went well.
- I drank more water throughout the day.
- What will I do a little better tomorrow?
- I could do a better job of not letting my anger take over when my oldest son doesn’t listen. I should be more present, compassionate and patient. I’m going to do this by taking a deep breath before I rush to anger.
If you noticed my second reflection pointed out how I made a mistake, but also how I recovered. When we appreciate this type of moment we are more likely to recover quickly from a future mistake when we are under pressure. We remember how we recovered from it in the past and we know we can do it again.
Sequence of Questions
The sequence of these questions is very important. When you take time to reflect on what went well then you are more open to finding ways to improve your life. It’s this little bit of priming that makes the medicine go down just a little easier. Positivity is so underrated.
The really cool part of all this is if you are able to create a positive reflection routine before bed you’ll make some big leaps over the next year. The side benefit is you will also sleep better. That’s another hack to staying healthy, maybe the biggest benefit to the whole bedtime routine that you create for yourself. You’ll be healthier and have more energy. Then after just 30 days I have a good feeling you’ll want to continue to expand your evening routine and grow your practice.
Remember to try to stack your positive reflection time on top of another part of your routine. It’s more likely to stick with you. Like trying to do this while brushing your team or taking two minutes before you watch your favorite show. Then after 30 days of trying this out send me a quick note and tell me how it’s going. I’d love to hear how this helps improve your sleep and energy.
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash