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How do you know you’re on track if you don’t practice Self-Reflection?

It seems everyone you talk to these days is really busy. So, the thought of taking time out to reflect may feel unproductive. After all, you have a long list of things to do! Others may feel that looking back isn’t the most useful way to spend their time. Time is precious. So, why is taking time for self-reflection really important?

Career coaches must reflect back with their clients to understand their background, experience, skills, and knowledge. Of course, there also needs to be time spent focusing on and planning on the future. However, lots of things can happen on the way from where you are now to where you want to be. Things outside of your control – like COVID-19.

Particularly, if you have big goals, you may not get those instant results and therefore, don’t know if you are making progress. That’s why reflection needs to be factored into the journey not just at the end of a process.

What is self-reflection?

Self-reflection is a process of assessing and evaluating your work or studies. Reflection is a process of evaluating goals and objectives.

The process can examine aspects before, during, and after events or activities or incidents. It’s not only to look at things that didn’t go to plan.  

It’s about understanding how things went well to be able to replicate, maintain, and share knowledge with others.

There are six steps Gibbs model of reflective learning process:

  1. A short descriptive stage where we focus on what happened during the situation.
  2. An examination stage where we focus on the feelings we experienced during the situation. For more advanced reflection we benefit from examining our feelings about the event shortly after it happened, and then after some time has passed.
  3. The evaluation stage than explores what went well and less well in the situation. This helps us to adapt our actions to avoid making the same mistakes again.
  4. Conduct an analysis and sense-making stage. This is an important part of the reflective learning process as it’s here the learner tests, validates, or adjusts their own assumptions and views of the world.
  5. A drawing conclusions stage about what else could have been done.
  6. Finally, a future actions stage about what to do in the future should a similar situation arise.

Reflective learning provides us with several benefits:

  • Learning faster and getting up to speed in new situations
  • Avoid making the same mistake twice
  • Helping to prepare for unfamiliar circumstances by recognising connections between seemingly unrelated situations
  • Questioning our assumptions and making better decisions.

Gibbs Reflective Model also cited as Gibbs’ reflective cycle or Gibbs’ model of reflection (1988).

Management and Leadership

Good managers and leaders will make time to reflect on a regular basis. They will take quality time and follow a process of reflection. Every week they’ll systematically review events and activities, incidents, or accidents, issues, and problems.

They will learn from these to improve responses, skills, and knowledge for the future. It’s also important to identify changes in direction, adjustments to original plans, and adapt to changing situations.

The practice of self-reflection is a method of evaluation and an important personal development tool. As long as it’s executed well it can identify improvements.

Research shows that leaders who take the time to reflect on past events stand out in their ability to test assumptions and make connections between seemingly unrelated events; a critical skill for success in this uncertain world. Cite: Ines Wichert is an occupational psychologist

Learning and development

Reflection is a great learning and development tool. Again, this needs to be done properly for it to be an effective process. It’s not about beating yourself or the team up for making mistakes.

If you don’t allow people in business to take risks, it will stifle innovation and change.  People don’t like to be told off. It’s uncomfortable and they are likely to retreat or rebel. Of course, we are not talking about the serious mistakes that have fatal consequences. There’ll be a process for dealing with these situations.


It’s not just a process to learn from mistakes or issues. Spend time celebrating what went well. When we have delivered Development Centres in the past, we encourage participants to focus on both their strengths and the areas of development.

Otherwise, if you only focus on the developments, some still call these weaknesses, there’s a risk of skills fade if you are only focusing on what needs to be improved. It could feel demotivating if there wasn’t a recognition of strengths during a development centre.

It’s the same when conducting some self-reflection to focus on every aspect of the activity. You’ll see in step 3 above of Gibbs model, evaluate what went well. Celebrate the smaller wins too.

Measuring and monitoring progress

Self-reflection helps you measure and monitor progress towards your desired outcomes. If you don’t take time to review, how do you know if you are on track? How do you know if you are successful?

The ability to measure and monitor starts with the goal or objective. Have you set goals that have a measurable outcome or result? If you haven’t set clear outcomes initially, this could be the reason you are feeling like you are not making progress. How can you measure a vague outcome? How do you know if you are meeting that goal? What indicators demonstrate you are making progress?

So, that’s why it’s really important to be absolutely clear about what you are aiming to achieve. Focus on the desired outcome.

Would you like to find out more about the process of setting the desired outcomes?

How to create well-formed desired outcomes

How journaling can help with reflection

Keeping a journal can help you with the process of self-reflection. It will give you somewhere to record an accurate description and account of what happened during the week. Which is step 1 in the Gibbs model?

It will allow you to think about the activities of the week, consider whether you are on track, and delve deeper into the situation so that you can examine all aspects of events.

  • The act of writing up your activities and recording facts forces you to think through objectively what happened. Whether you write them down on paper or you use technology to get it all down doesn’t matter.
  • Once you’ve written up your activities and observations, you’ll be ready to consider the opportunities and learnings from events that week. And, then design and develop steps to strengthen or improve.
  • Keeping a journal ensures you take accountability and develop successful habits. The journal remains as a permanent record which will be good for annual appraisals or interviews you attend in the future and allows you to review how far you’ve progressed.

Journaling is an excellent way to aid the process of self-reflection. It will even help you create better goals because the process of entering facts in your journal will cause you to see them in a more logical way that is more useful.

Adjusting and adapting action plans

It sometimes takes courage to change direction when you are emotionally connected to a goal or path. You thought long and hard about how to execute an idea or a plan, and something happens to force you to change your plans. Covid-19 makes an appearance!

If you are feeling stuck and demotivated, give yourself a little time out to record how far you’ve come and what you’ve already achieved.

Case study:

I’d been working really long hours focusing my attention on social media and producing content online.  Towards the end of 3 months of lockdown measures during the coronavirus crisis, I started to wonder if all the work was generating results and I started questioning, was all my efforts making any difference, and was I achieving the desired outcomes.

During the lockdown, I had been working so hard on networking, social media, creating content, videos, blogs, articles, and training courses. I had to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Of course, I’d never wish for a situation like this however, having a growth mindset was critical for surviving at the least and thriving at best.

Lockdown activity:

  • 150-200 social media posts across LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.
  • 10 Blogs and Articles for my websites ( and
  • Approximately 10 Networking events and 121 meetings
  • 10 Interview Coaching 121 sessions
  • Several CV reviews, LinkedIn reviews, and consultations

I’ve also been able to focus quality time on my health and fitness. Yes, I have been a Joe Wicks participant and I’ve also taken the time to walk or jog! I’ve made the time, and it was difficult at the beginning of lockdown, to relax and made sure I took regular breaks.

So, writing down all the activity was a good start to self-reflection and then evaluating the progress.

  • 350% increase in website traffic for the same month last year.
  • Significant increase in traffic as a result of blogging and social media

So, more traffic means more daily enquires, which increases leads and as a result regular business. Including, 121 Interview coaching sessions, LinkedIn Reviews, and CV reviews and increasing a FB Group to over 1,000 members.

Why is taking time out for self-reflection important?

Here’s the point of sharing my own experience.  If I hadn’t taken some quality time out and stopped working, I wouldn’t have recognised how much I’d achieved so far.  Asking negative questions is less than helpful and it can damage progress when you have a big goal. 

If you don’t give yourself some time out to review your progress, you can start to think ‘is it worth it?” and the risk is to give up and quit too early.  That’s why it’s so important to take time for self-reflection. 

About Dawn Moss

Dawn has worked in a corporate environment for over ten years providing Recruitment & Selection Services, and has been involved in Coaching & Educating Business Leaders, Managers and Employees in all aspects of the recruitment process.

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