It has been nearly 3 months into INSEAD. Orientation week was just like yesterday, and I’m now already at P2 and bidding for my P3 electives. Time indeed flies.

P1 was intense.

8:30am classes, assignments, study group, school activities, career talks, information sessions, weekend trips, parties – it’s everything combined, and everything seems new.

It can be overwhelming, but I enjoyed every single bit of it.

I always believe that the world is a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be solved. INSEAD is like throwing hundreds of pieces of jigsaws in front of you and letting you get confused, get lost, get frustrated and then when you finally complete the puzzle, you feel satisfied and accomplished.

So the question is, how to make the process of solving this puzzle interesting and meaningful?

To me, the answer is awareness and reflection.

One thing INSEAD constantly leads us to do is to be aware of yourself, the situation you are in and the people around you. By paying attention to how you behave in private, group and section settings, you build up a better understanding of who you are, what makes you comfortable and what makes you uncomfortable.

It’s like you are observing yourself from above, all the time. It might seem easy but it’s certainly challenging. Fortunately, it can be trained as long as you practise it consciously and constantly.

Self-awareness matters as it forces us to evaluate ourselves in a relatively objective manner. We are mostly biased towards to believe that we are better than average, so defending our views and positions becomes a natural reactive mechanism.

However, developing self-awareness is the first step that allows us to compare our behaviours and thoughts against our internal standard and values.

And whenever there is a disparity, self-reflection comes into the picture.

Reflection forces you to admit your mistakes.

Everyone knows this obviously but it’s just not as easy as it sounds. Reflection is an effective way to separate emotions from issues at hand. It targets at the mistake itself without making you feel embarrassed or upset about yourself. It’s almost like having a constructive feedback session with yourself.

And what is more crucial is that reflection shows you perspectives.

Often we are so caught up in the problems but fail to take a minute and step back to figure out what is the underlying issue. Reflection not only challenges your own perspective, but also builds bridges to understand other people’s way of thinking. You don’t have to agree, but you need to know where they are from.

Awareness is the WHAT and reflection is the WHY. With these two sorted out, an action plan towards HOW seems much more straightforward.