I have been doing a lot of work on the subject of ‘reflection’ lately. Traditionally, reflection isn’t something we tend to do. In fact we will tend to avoid it and even consider it as a waste of time!
Few people are naturally strong reflectors.
In today’s world we are swept up in ‘instant everything’; instant messages, emails, answers and knowledge. If we need to know something, it’s usually only 3 clicks away. However, what do we know about ourselves?
When was the last time you took a good long look at yourself? I don’t mean in the mirror just before you rush out the door to go to work or on a date, but at who you are, what makes you – you? What are your strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, motivators, qualities and personal traits? What are you really good at? When did you last look at yourself critically and openly in this way?
For some of you, the only time you’ll really get to think about critiquing yourself is when your manager is about to write your annual appraisal. Then all of a sudden you have to start thinking about what you have done in the last 12 months and quickly cobble something together you can report back on.
However, reflection is important as all learning requires an element of reflection – “what was that about?”, “how does that affect me?” etc. It helps us to find meaning and can be very effective in dealing with change. Yet, it can also feel uncomfortable, so we avoid it and procrastinate.
Practicing reflection is very powerful – however, the answers don’t always come straight away, they need time to come to the surface. For some people doing activities that don’t require a great deal of ‘brain activity’ such as running, walking, swimming or gardening can really help.
Think about a lesson where you learnt to be a good manager or team player? Did you learn that from a training course? Probably not! We learn from experience. We are able to reflect on our own experiences of working with or working for bad managers or colleagues as well as good managers and colleagues. We use reflection to determine what good or bad looks like or behaves like.
It’s worth noting you cannot write a good CV without reflecting on your career highlights, your transferable skills and strengths. You cannot succeed in an interview without spending time reflecting on your previous achievements and successes.
Equally, what do you know what your personal learning styles are? For example do you learn best using Visual (spatial), Aural (auditory-musical), Verbal (linguistic) or Physical (kinaesthetic – through touch) experiences? Knowing this could really help you in your job, when you’re are learning new things and when you are working with others and understanding their learning styles too.
Reflection can really help you identify areas for improvement, not just in your work life but in everyday life. How do you interact with others? Do you steal the energy in the room or do contribute to it harmoniously?
We under-value the power of reflection. Without it we may be guilty of making quick and rash decisions that are poorly thought through. With it we can take time out to identify issues, possible patterns and themes or long term behaviours that have gone unnoticed or hidden. Reflection helps us make the right choices and gives us permission to check in with our gut –instincts as well as other people’s views and opinions. It can make us better employees, better managers, better decision makers and overall it can help make us better people.
So why not give it a go? Try making a note at the end of each day about one thing you have learnt or observed about yourself using reflection. Practice doing this every day. It will not only help you see things more clearly, but will also help enlighten you and give you some fantastic personal insight!