Develop a practice of getting feedback from as many sources as possible. Be sure to zero in on those areas where you can least afford to have a blind spot.

A reality check is like going to the Doctor for a check-up. It’s uncomfortable being probed. It’s anxiety-provoking waiting for test results, but at least you know what you’re dealing with. If there is bad news, you are generally in better shape finding out before a potential problem gets aggravated.

You can get a reality check anytime you test your assumptions about what is going on around you. For example, a business needs information about what their customer really wants. At work, you will need some feedback from those people who will have the greatest impact on your success. At home, you need to know how the people who are closest to you are feeling about you.

Getting frequent reality checks helps you cut through your own illusions and ultimately be much better equipped to deal with what is really going on. You get the chance to see if you’re distorting reality in a way that could leave you vulnerable to unnecessary damage.

Even though a reality check may be initially uncomfortable, the process gets easier with time. When you get used to dealing with what is really going on around you (rather than your untested assumptions) your relationship with reality gets friendlier. You may even find yourself fascinated by the often surprising ways that other people respond to you. This puts you in a great position to learn.

To participate in this kind of fascinated learning, you’ll have to stay open. This means calming down any defensiveness so you can really take in the feedback. Then the learning is much more interesting.

Karla, the leader of a multi-million dollar sales organization found herself in a totally new position after a big organizational shake up. Since the new position was very challenging, with less immediate reward but higher potential for advancement, she was unsure about her manager’s motives in moving her to the new position.

Even though it was a lateral move, she wasn’t sure if her manager intended it as a promotion or as a demotion. She didn’t know if he put her in the new position because he respected her potential or if it was because he was dissatisfied in some way. She was chewing on this for weeks, when it became clear that she needed a reality check.

She had a candid conversation with her manager where she asked for his reasons and clarified his view of her future. It was very reassuring to hear that he was highly invested in her leadership potential and saw this new position as providing the necessary challenges for her development. Her manager also pointed out a blind spot in her ability to collaborate. Karla’s response to the conversation was initially mixed but she quickly assimilated the information. The reality check helped her settle into the new role and to wholeheartedly take on the challenges.

If you’re proactive and get a reality check when you need to, you’ll be able to catch any troublesome blind spots. The new information can help you test out your assumptions, expectations and concerns. This ensures that you’re really on track with your best efforts.

Action steps:

1. Evaluate where you need feedback the most. Look at the most strategic areas and where the information gaps are the greatest. Then create a plan to get the feedback you need.

2. Ask your best friend how you could be a better friend.

3. Ask your spouse or partner what they most want from you that you have rarely provided.

4. Ask your co-workers for honest feedback on how you could contribute more effectively. Keep in mind that others will sense if you really want to hear the truth. Try to make it safe for them. They need to know that you really want honesty and that you’re willing to hear things that may be uncomfortable.

5. If you are in a leadership position, hire an executive coach or consultant to do some interviewing for you. This is especially important for sensitive work relationships. A skilled, objective third party will be able to probe deeply and clearly. They will target the most relevant issues and bring them to the surface. A skilled coach will also be able to bring the information back to you in a way that allows you both understand what is going on and devise an action plan for addressing needed changes.

7. Subscribe to the Enlightened Edge™ newsletter.