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How Ray Dalio Makes Progress Through Reflection

Even for those remotely associated with the financial world, the name Ray Dalio is a familiar one. He’s the Founder of Bridgewater Associates – the world’s largest hedge fund with $160bn in assets under management. Dalio launched Bridgewater from his apartment in New York in 1975, and over the course of the last four decades he has made his mark on the financial world, amassing an estimated net worth of $17.7bn.

Outside of Bridgewater, Dalio is also a philanthropist who has vowed to give over half of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through his non profit organization, the Dalio Foundation, Ray and his wife Barbara provide donations supporting a variety of industries and projects, including education, ocean exploration and awareness, environmental protection, mental health and wellness, child welfare and capacity building in China, and transcendental meditation.

Dalio recently published a book entitled ‘Principles’ in which he “shares the unconventional principles that helped him create unique results in life and business—and which any person or organization can adopt to better achieve their goals”.

Dalio’s habit of reflection

At one point in his career, after experiencing a flurry of successes, Dalio changed his mindset to include more reflection. During a TED Talk he explained, “Rather than thinking, ‘I’m right.’ I started to ask myself, ‘How do I know I’m right?”

He began to realize that pain coupled with reflection was the perfect recipe for progress and personal growth. Dalio recognized that when you succeed at something you tend to rest on your laurels and refrain from questioning your actions or decisions. By reflecting on all of his decisions or ideas, regardless of how successful they were, he was able to make even better choices going forward.

In a quote from his book, Dalio claims that “the most valuable habit I’ve acquired is using pain to trigger quality reflections.”

Pain and mistakes give you insight into flaws in your decision making model. Taking time to reflect can allow you to adjust your basis for making decisions so you can avoid future pain. Naturally, Dalio – who, by trade, deals with volatile markets and changing economic expectations – has mastered this process, especially as it applies to his firm’s investments, which has generated nearly $50 billion dollars in profit for investors since Bridgewater’s inception.

How to build a habit of reflection like Ray Dalio

1. Set aside time to reflect on your day

“Everyone makes mistakes. The main difference is that successful people learn from them and unsuccessful people don’t.” – Dalio, Principles

Setting aside time at the end of a day to consider what went well, what didn’t, and why, is vital for future progress. There are several ways you can do this. Dalio opts for Transcendental Meditation, which he says has “given me an ability to put things in perspective, which has helped a lot. I think meditation has been the single biggest influence on my life.”

Meditate for [x] minutes each day

By using meditation to declutter your mind and it put things into perspective, you’ll be able to reflect on your day more effectively and with greater clarity.. The reflective process itself will in turn help you to become aware of gaps in your knowledge, skills, and emotional states..

As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also explained, meditation allows him to clear his mind and puts him in a steady state before he begins work. You can use apps like Headspace and Calm and/or techniques such as mindfulness and heart rhythm meditation to help you develop your meditation routine over time.

2. Learn from other people

A helpful technique that Dalio uses to think through logical processes is to ask other people probing questions. For example, by asking a person about the process they use to reach an answer or conclusion, you’re able to identify steps they might be taking  you haven’t considered.

“I never cared much about others’ conclusions — only for the reasoning that led to these conclusions,” he writes. “That reasoning had to make sense to me. Through this process, I improved my chances of being right, and I learned a lot from a lot of great people.”

Start a conversation with a distant colleague or mere acquaintance

Simply sending them an email or giving someone a quick call is fine, you can increase this to a daily task to build your connections and widen your knowledge.

3. Track your mistakes and learnings

By keeping a track of all your previous mistakes and things you’ve learned you’ll be able to assess how you’ve improved over time. It can help you spot weaknesses and potential points of failure before they’ve even become apparent. You should:

Write down all the mistakes you made throughout the day

Often, the difficulty with reflection is that we’ll tend to avoid thinking about things that didn’t or aren’t going well. By focusing on mistakes, we force ourselves to admit that something didn’t go according to plan. For example, a failure might relate to the way you structured a team meeting in which takeaways were unclear or the discussion was dominated by a minority of participants – these types of failures, once identified, can be prevented from recurring, sometimes simply as a result of your heightened awareness.



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