Schedule Time to Reflect on Positive Feedback

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“Research shows the habit of reflection can separate extraordinary professionals from mediocre ones.”

— James R. Bailey & Scheherazade Rehman, Don’t Underestimate the Power of Self-Reflection

In the past, I used to quickly move on when I received positive feedback. I erroneously thought it was the negative feedback where I should spend all my time.

Over the years, I’ve realized how pervasive this is. In my experience, this approach has been the default of many professional environments I’ve worked in — media, academia, tech startups, and tech enterprises.

But in a world where…

  • so many of us struggle with imposter syndrome and anxiety
  • many of us are told to work on our weaknesses rather than understand our strengths
  • the heaviness of terrible world events is accessible 24/7

… I’ve found it immensely important and empowering to make the most of the positive feedback we receive. For me, this self-reflection occurs when I block out time to sit on my meditation cushion and bring that positive feedback to the surface so I can wring every last drop of insight from it.

A person does sitting meditation in a colorful abstract forest.
Note: your reflection need not take place in a colorful abstract forest.

After all, as one paper puts it, depending on the situation, reflecting on a performance may be just as or more important than practicing for the next one:

“It is common wisdom that practice makes perfect. And, in fact, we find evidence that when given a choice between practicing a task and reflecting on their previously accumulated practice, most people opt for the former. We argue in this paper that this preference is misinformed. Using evidence gathered in ten experimental studies (N = 4,340) conducted across different environments, geographies, and populations, we provide a rich understanding of the conditions under which the marginal benefit of reflecting on previously accumulated experience is superior to the marginal benefit of accumulating additional experience.”

Reflecting on positive feedback

It’s a radical act, even countercultural in many professional circles. However you choose to slow down for reflection (it need not be on a meditation cushion), I’d recommend scheduling it into your day until it becomes a regular habit. Just as we process negative feedback to decide if and how to use it, processing positive feedback can provide the following benefits:

  1. It allows us to bring greater awareness to our strengths, which can be just as or even more important than understanding our weaknesses.
  2. It can bring forth gratitude for yourself and the feedback giver, and we know that experiencing gratitude improves well-being (read more here and here).
  3. It can give you first-hand experience of the power of positive feedback, which will likely cause you to give it more often to others (instead of being part of the 37% who believe it’s optional).


Continue learning

  1. What is Feedback Literacy?
  2. Giving Downward Feedback? Ease the Power Dynamic.
  3. Bookmark the Constructive Feedback course playlist