Life can only be understood backwards: but it must be lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard
Everyone talks about December being a good time for Self-Reflection. A time to reflect on your achievements, review goals and objectives. It’s generally a time to evaluate the events from the past year.
However, does anyone actually have the time to reflect? It’s party season at work and home! It’s a time for wining and dining clients and all the usual preparation; writing cards, Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, food preparation and so on! And does anyone actually follow a proper process of self-reflection?
What is Self-Reflection?
Essentially the process and practice of Self-Reflection is a method of assessing your own thoughts and actions, for the purpose of personal learning and development. It’s a process of learning from experience and evaluating as objectively as possible.
Self-Reflection becomes more meaningful and successful if you have a process rather than just randomly thinking about a past situation. Even more powerful as a development tool if you keep a regular record or journal throughout the year.
If we don’t use a process there is a tendency to dwell on the negatives. Instead, there is an opportunity to acknowledge and address lessons learnt.
Keep a Journal
We’ve mentioned the importance of keeping a journal before. It’s incredibly useful to capture experiences and events regularly throughout the year as and when they occur.
Keeping a journal will help hold you accountable and responsible. The process of reflection commits you to taking responsibility for your actions. It also keeps you accountable for improving existing skills and developing new.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.” – Confucius
If you are looking for a process to formulise your learning and development plan through reflection try Gibbs Reflective Model also cited as Gibbs’ reflective cycle or Gibbs’ model of reflection (1988).
Description: What happened? Don’t make judgements yet or try to draw conclusions; simply describe the situation, the event or the project. Try to be objective with your observations. Take time to gather all the information and data before, during and after the event.
Feelings: What were your reactions and feelings? Again don’t move on to analysing these yet.
Evaluation: What was good or bad about the experience? Make value judgements.
Analysis: What sense can you make of the situation? Bring in ideas from outside the experience to help you. What was really going on? Were different people’s experiences similar or different in important ways?
Conclusions: What can be concluded, in a general sense, from these experiences and the analyses you have undertaken? What can be concluded about your own specific, unique, personal situation or way of working?
Personal action plans: What are you going to do differently in this type of situation next time? What steps are you going to take on the basis of what you have learnt?
Reflective thinking, in my opinion, is an incredibly useful technique to use in the development of your career.
This technique will also help you to prepare for your next job interview.
Generally, help you progress your career (not just upwards but contributing to the depth and breadth of your knowledge and skills).
Improve your softer skills (behavioural competencies) and the way you handle particularly difficult and challenging situations in the workplace.
It makes learning from your “mistakes” a little more comfortable and affords you an opportunity to review and critique and draw that metaphorical line and move on!!
Here are some powerful questions to ask:
- Is there one thing I need to focus on to get me where I want to be?
- Who am I on the inside that I’d like to become to the outside world?
- What have I done this week to take me closer to achieving one of my goals or to improve my knowledge or skills?
- What would I like more/less of in my life?
- What can I do today to make a difference?
- What am I happy about and what am I grateful for today?
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