Ever since my friend Ady Howes asked a question on Twitter under the hashtag #LoveCPD the role of reflection as part of our learning process has been very much at the forefront of my mind. It’s for that reason that I have interrupted my planned series of posts and want to reflect on reflective practice or discovering our learning moments.
Nowadays there is a great deal of emphasis placed on being our best self. Some of the techniques for accomplishing this are thousands of years old; they just have a new name. Reflective practice is the new term for the ancient process of trying to “know yourself” in order to transform your life through positive change.
The word reflective refers to reflection, or thinking about, certain areas of your life or events in your life and how they turned out. As the event is reflected upon, you are able to explore it in greater depth in order to learn lessons from your experience. As a result of what you learn, you can develop goals to improve your skills in that particular area and follow through with action steps to achieve your goals.
If you’ve been feeling “stuck” in your career or personal life, reflective practice could just be what you’re looking for to transform your life. Let’s look at how to get started.
Starting Reflective Practice
A good starting point is to keep a diary or journal. A small notebook that can be carried with you and/or a folder on your computer with various files you create can all help.
Next, it is important to understand the process of reflection in reflective practice. Reflection is an active process of observing your own experiences in order to evaluate how you were able to handle certain events or occurrences in your life. It is not intended to make you feel bad or beat yourself up over what did or didn’t happen. For each event you wish to explore, simply evaluate the situation in a calm manner to learn from it.
Some events will not require a great deal of analysis. Others might be worth digging deeper because you might spot a pattern or problem you weren’t aware of before.
Learning from Past Actions
A lot of us can be negative and pessimistic. Our negative self-talk tells us we are a “loser” or failure. Reflective practice can help transform you into a winner by cutting the cord of negativity and setting you on a path to personal transformation.
The secret of successful reflective practice is to learn how to look at your actions and experiences without being quick to judge them. It also means taking the time to examine them – rather than just rush to the next thing on your to-do list without learning any lessons from what you’ve said, accomplished, or tried to do.
Through examination, we learn more about ourselves, and in that process of learning, we open ourselves up to a range of new possibilities. Through learning from experience, we can become even more successful in our personal and professional lives.
We’ve all done it. Repeated the same mistake at least twice. Had a “disaster” in terms of our work life or personal life, such as the loss of a job or the (bad) breakup of a relationship. When this happens, have you:
- Stuck your head in the sand and just ignored what was happening?
- Blamed others for what happened?
- Or did you sit down to reflect on what happened to see what lessons you could learn from it?
Chances are that like many others, you’ve done 1 and 2 most of the time up until this point in your life. With reflective practice, it is time to begin doing #3 regularly.
You can start small and then work your way up to the bigger issues as and when you need to. You can start your journal with something that happened today in your work or personal life, and reflect on how it went.
For example, did you have to give a PowerPoint presentation at a meeting today? How did it go? Were you prepared? Were there any technical or other issues that cropped up? If so, how did you handle them?
Maybe you talked to a family member on the phone and things got a little out of hand. What happened? Were there any things you could have done or said differently?
We hate it when things don’t go well at work or we argue with the people we care about. Often, though, these are some of the best “learning moments” that can highlight areas of our life we need to work on in order to be our best self. Once you have evaluated the event, think about what lessons you’ve learned and how you can do better next time.
In relation to the presentation, it might be:
- Get to the room earlier to set up better
- Conduct a practice run using the equipment to avoid technical glitches
- Make the lettering on the slides bigger so everyone at the back could also see clearly
In relation to the phone call with the family member:
- Don’t mention topic X
- Avoid the blame game
- Change the subject if they start going on at you about Y or Z
- Remind them you are an adult and while you appreciate their input and caring, you’ve already discussed the issue at least once and don’t need to again.
These are just a few examples. You should be able to come up with many of your own, relevant to your personal circumstances, once you start on the path of reflective practice.
In subsequent posts I will delve a little deeper into this.