Staring straight back at me: My thoughts on Reflection
20 Feb 2017
In December, I mentioned to a colleague that we had spent an entire afternoon on our first residential learning how to be more reflective. Their reply was “As in you wear more reflective clothing?” - this was unfortunately not covered in the session. Instead, the aim was to develop a technique that enabled us to look back at our experiences and learn from them. Reflection is a large part of the scheme. Our day-to-day experiences are all different but we each have an abundance of opportunities to learn more about ourselves, those around us and leadership in general.
Developing the ability to reflect on your experiences and learn from them constructively can be a challenge. Like many skills, some find it easy, others do it naturally and some find it difficult. There are many different ways to reflect on an experience, so if you find one isn’t working for you, move on and try something different. Thankfully, the scheme offers you an environment to embrace figuring out the best way for you to reflect on your experiences and learn from them.
I know some people find writing their thoughts down, either immediately after a meeting or at the end of each day, helps them to identify key areas to promote or improve. Others follow a formal process like the Gibbs’ model or Driscoll’s cycle to evaluate and reflect on experiences.
However, for me, I need to sit down and talk things through. Normally, on my drive home each day, I spend some time thinking about everything that happened and how it was different from the day before. By the time I get home, I’ll have one or two events or actions to discuss and reflect on. Having that physical space helps me to be more objective. On the occasions I can’t take the ideas home I tend to find a fellow graduate to lend their ear or even my placement manager. Someone I can trust will be supportive and non-judgemental, yet still challenge me to be honest and objective.
Usually, my thought process for reflection follows the questions below. I always try to have at least one outcome; either something I know works, or something I know I need to change or improve. I also try to think about if others were involved what they might have been feeling, why they chose to act in that way, and if there is anything I should feedback to them.
- What happened?
- Why do I want to revisit it? Has it happened before?
- Why did it happen that way?
- If the situation had been slightly different would I have responded in the same way?
Thoughts and Feelings
- What did I think and feel about it at the time?
- Have those thoughts and feelings changed now? How?
- What did those around me do?
- What might they have been thinking or feeling?
- What could I have done differently?
- What do I need to learn for next time? Do I need help to do that?
- What benefit is there in changing my actions? Or what implication is there in not changing them?
- What is the key thing I’ve learnt from this experience?
- Is there anything others can or should learn from this experience too?
I’ll admit I do most of the talking and I essentially go through most of the same steps any of the models will take you through, but I find having someone to talk to makes it easier than having a piece of paper or just doing it in my head. Perhaps one day I should reflect on that.
Remember, you don’t have to only reflect on experiences you thought went badly. Try to reflect on why great experiences went well too. What was different about these experiences? Sometimes, the same event happens again, so reflect on whether your changes improved the outcome.
Finally, at the end of the day, reflection is meant to help you develop your skills and behaviours. So the more honest you are with yourself, the more powerful it will be. It’s is down to you. No-one else can do it for you.