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Introspection, the observation of one’s own emotional and mental processes is, in my experience, an underutilized business tool. Introspection is the process of looking at yourself, understanding your motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and triggers. Without enough introspection, your life- and business- suffers.

Now, of course, since I’m a psychologist by training, I think introspection is the key to many business ills. But, even for that, I realize that too much thinking, without enough doing, is also a problem. But I’m not talking about the people who sit and observe themselves all day (they’ll be the subject of another post, perhaps! 🙂

What I’m considering today is that we’re hard-wired to repeat the mistakes we don’t even know we’re making.

Wherever we have “shadows” or “hiding places” in our introspection are the very places we’ll trip up in business. Yet, rather than taking a look at these areas, we instead often avoid them.

Let me give you on example from my own experience.

I once had a business coaching client, Marcia*, who was always running multiple projects at once. She had a huge challenge in settling down to complete tasks- she was very good at starting, but not so good at finishing. She got a huge rush from being busy, but this frantic busyness often resulted in her sabotaging her own opportunities. Like once, for instance, she applied to be a guest on a major talk show. She had prepared her outfit, prepared her interview questions, but then, at the last minute, didn’t pay attention and sent in the wrong application. Not only was it addressed to another show, it also had a focus that was inappropriate to what she was applying for.

Now, of course, you might say, “Simple mistake.”

And it was.

Except that Marcia* had had similar challenges in other areas- where she got ahead of herself and almost always missed out on good opportunities. But, rather than slowing down and examining herself and why she kept experiencing these situations, she spent a lot of money on hiring and firing assistants, and on investing in expensive schedulers and project management software and so on.

But the problem remained that at the last minute, she scrapped the assistants, schedulers, and software, and did everything herself. And again, and again, she lost out on opportunities.

Of course, it’s always easier to see challenges like these in other another person, and easier to solve them in other people too.

Though I think that introspection is an important business skill we want to cultivate. It doesn’t always feel good to get quiet and to confront the worst parts of ourselves. But, the truth is, we all have parts we want to be different. Yet we can’t make changes until we clearly see what is.

So how can you get started with a little more introspection?

Grab a journal or open a document on your computer, and answer these questions:

  1. What is my biggest area of frustration in my business right now?
  2. What pattern do I seem to keep repeating, even though I don’t want to?
  3. How would I know when I’d resolved this issue?
  4. What’s one small step I could take today to keep the issue from recurring?

And then, of course, the action is to do whatever you outlined in #4.

Running a small business demands a lot of us. But action without introspection just ends up being a whole lot of wasted effort.