If you are anything like me, you’re not excited to sit down and make a list of all of the deficiencies and weaknesses you have as a person and as an author. You probably don’t grab a cup of coffee and a pencil, thrilled to be listing all of the issues you have.

Writers tend to be self-conscious and overly critical. We think our writing is terrible, even when others prove to us that it isn’t. Part of this is human nature, and part of it is the type of personality drawn to a profession that the general population sees as a punishment: writing.

For as long as there have been class clowns, teachers have used the act of writing as a punishment. Poor Bart Simpson has been writing on that chalkboard in his classroom for decades.

Nobody wants to sit down and be self-critical, attempting to discover why we’re not finding success. That is human nature. However, it can be difficult to take your writing or your business to the next level if you are not honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

In my writing, I often discover my shortcomings with the help of an outside and impartial voice. In other words, an editor will show me where my dialogue is clunky or why my sentence structure needs to be varied, and I can fix those elements in my manuscript. But what an editor can’t do is explain to me why I keep making those same mistakes in the first place. That will only come through my own practice and self-reflection, making dedicated time to think about why I’m making those choices. In theory, I could make those same mistakes over and over again and not learn from them because my editor is fixing them before the book is published.

When it comes to business, the stakes are a bit higher, making self-reflection even more important. For example, if I am not good at writing ad copy, then I will continually lose money on my paid advertising campaigns. I can ask an expert to look at my ads and point out where I’m making mistakes, but like an editor on my manuscript, that professional can’t tell me why I keep making the same mistakes.

I’ve always been the type of person who is self-reflective. To my benefit and detriment, I spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting what I do and how I do it, often called a postmortem. I will look at a published book, read what the reviewers have said about it, and then re-examine my own habits and routines. Sometimes, there’s a correlation there, and sometimes, there isn’t. The problem is that I am not always the best person to self-identify areas where I need work, which is why mentoring and coaching is so important in many disciplines and industries.

Without having the ability to be self-reflective or in the absence of a personal coach, it can be difficult to get past bad habits or practices that are holding you down. But being in a mastermind group can help you make tremendous progress on becoming the best version of yourself you can be.

It is not easy, however. As a participant in many mastermind groups, I’ve often had to sit and listen to what others have observed about me or my behavior while realizing that it is coming from an altruistic place. I did not have a prior relationship with these people, and therefore they had no motive for treating me anything but honestly. When five or six people are saying the same thing, all seeing the places where I cause myself problems, it’s almost impossible to ignore. I’ve gained critical insights about myself, the way I think, and my approach to the business of writing, and I would not have been able to do that on my own.

Within a mastermind group, this type of fertile ground for personal insights can only be possible if you’re willing to set your ego aside to become the best person you can be. Critical insights can be positive as well, so I don’t want to make this sound completely negative. Sometimes we don’t recognize things we truly excel at it until other people point them out to us.

When I lead a mastermind group, I do my best to ask all of the participants to contribute when we are discussing someone’s problem on the hot seat. I’m trying to tease out commonalities and consistencies that will hopefully illustrate to the person on the hot seat where their actions might be problematic, leading to critical insights about themselves.

On the technical side, this is where having a recorded version of the mastermind sessions can be extremely valuable to everyone participating. When you are on the hot seat or the focus of the discussion, it is easy to become overwhelmed by what is being said. It is easy to become buried in the conversation. Often, it is natural to become defensive rather than open-minded. Every time I’ve been in that situation, I go back and watch or listen to the recording, and that is where those critical personal insights will often emerge. At the moment, I was too ashamed or frightened to hear what was being said, but when I can give myself some distance and revisit the conversation, I often have a breakthrough.

Sometimes, the person on the hot seat has a similar problem to one I’m having. So even though I am not the focus of the conversation during that session, I can visualize myself in the hot seat, and I begin to think about ways I would respond to what is being said about me. I’ll take notes based on what other people have said and how the person on the hot seat responds. And using the recording, I will go back and listen with my notes, and if those problems were very similar to my own, I almost always have solutions I can implement immediately.

It is not easy to address our own weaknesses through self-reflection. It is certainly not natural. Being in a mastermind group with people who care about you but with whom you do not have prior relationships or connections can be a worthwhile way to address the shortcomings and lead to personal breakthroughs from critical insights. And even begin to reap improved positive mental health.

Want to take your writing chops and business savvy to the next level? Check out The Author Success Mastermind group at https://theauthorsuccessmastermind.com/join/