How to improve skills and engage a mentor at the same time? Ask yourself these intentional reflection questions

Here are some wonderful intentional reflection questions that can help you build important skills and identify ways to meaningfully interact with a mentor.

Smart women know that having good mentors is important. And, we know that having time to reflect is important. But, we often don’t know to do these things in a strategic way.

Now, you can give yourself this questionnaire every month.

Where these questions came from

In episode 39 of Cal Newport’s Deep Questions podcast, David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene and Range, shares a questionnaire that Marije Elferink-Gemser gave him to use to build his skills.

Dr. ElferinkGemser studies talent identification and development in youth sports, but these questions are wonderful in helping us all figuring what skills to build and how to build them efficiently by employing a mentor.

The Intentional Reflection Questions

Here are the original questions, Dr. ElferinkGemser posed to David Epstein:

  • What’s my goal? (Be as clear as possible but it doesn’t need to be realistic at this point.)
  • Do I have any idea of what’s needed to perform at the level I aim for?
  • How do I make sure that I get an even better idea of what is needed to perform at that level?
  • How am I going to arrange that? Who are people I need to reach that goal and how can I make sure that they will help me reach that personal goal?
  • Am I sure I want to reach the goal? Why?

Here is how they evolved for David Epstein:

  1. What am I trying to do?
  2. What skill am I trying to build and what am I already good at?
  3. Where do I think I am strong and where do I think I am weak?
  4. How can I figure out or who can help me figure out whether I am correct about my strengths and weaknesses?
  5. What do I need to improve?
  6. What people do I need to help me do that and how can I engage those people?

Why these are helpful

Talented and caring women often don’t like asking for help–often because they don’t want to be a burden to others. However, I suspect this questionnaire can be useful because it gives us a concrete way to initiate a conversation with a mentor. Sometimes, knowing how to do something can help you get motivated to actually do it.

If you try out these questions, please let me know how it works out for you and what skills you are able to build as a result.