Reflection is a powerful way to help develop your skills and review their effectiveness, rather than just carrying on doing things as they’ve always been done. It has huge benefits – both in and out of the workplace – and can help us discover new freedoms and opportunities.
So what’s the difference between ‘reflecting’ and ‘thinking’? To start, reflection means to think about something, but not all thinking is reflecting. Reflecting takes practice. Because information is coming at us 24/7, reflecting requires us to slow down, pause and reduce information input. It also requires that we be careful what we think about and how.
Benefits of Reflection:
- Increases self-awareness which is a key component of emotional intelligence
- Promotes deeper learning
- It gives you great ideas
- It makes you happier
- It gives you perspective
Developing Reflection Into a Habit
When is your mind more open and alert? Are you a morning person? A night owl? The time doesn’t make a difference – the point is to try to carve out about 15 minutes a few times a week to work on making reflection a habit. Some tips for getting yourself ready:
- Find a time that works for you (for me, it’s first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee)
- Be sure to stay away from your computer and other devices
- Choose an environment you like (I have a favorite room in my house with lots of windows that looks out into nature)
- Have something to write your reflections in (a notebook or journal will do; you can go back and look at ideas and developments)
Skills Needed for Fruitful Reflection
Reflection doesn’t just happen. It takes some practice and the use of specific skills to coax useful information out of active reflecting. Whether you’re working through something big or small, consider using the following tools:
- Self-awareness – can you pause and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgement?
- Description – can you describe a situation you need to reflect on from a neutral standpoint? Ask yourself, “How would other people describe me in the situation?”
- Critical Analysis – can you challenge yourself by asking things like, “Is what I am thinking true?”
- Review – can you stand back and ask yourself what you would do differently next time around?
- Key Learnings – ask yourself, “What did I learn from this?” or “What would I do differently?”
Other Ways to Practice Reflection
In addition to writing down reflective notes and thoughts, there are three other ways to reflect:
1.Talking to yourself. You can have a conversation with yourself to work through a problem or situation using questions and answers.
2.Reflective Walking. When we walk, our brain waves slow down, which allows for fresh thinking and ideas.
3.Reflect with others. In a pair or as a group, decide on a topic or project you want to reflect on and take turns actively listening while the other person reflects. When everyone has had a chance to verbalize their thoughts, take a moment to reflect again. Repeat the process until new insights or ideas are brought to light or the process naturally ends.