Part of my mission in business is helping people understand how learning is far more effective than simply training! When I picture training, I see someone standing up in front of a classroom, flashing slides in front of them. It’s boring, it’s listening and it’s not engaging. When I picture learning, it’s happening all around me. It can be led, or self-directed and it’s full of “a-ha moments”. Above all, it’s memorable!
At this time of the year many of us are thinking about what we did last year and what we’re planning on doing next year. But do we integrate this into our day to day learning? I think Self-reflection is a great way to learn from our own experiences.
If ‘reflection’ means to think about something. Self-reflecting is simply thinking about or reflecting on what you do – or did. Self-reflecting helps you to consider your skills and review their effectiveness, rather than just carry on doing things as you have always done them. It is about questioning, in a positive way, what you do and why you do it and then deciding whether there is a better, or more efficient, way of doing it in the future.
Thinking about what has happened is part of being human. The difference between casual ‘thinking’ and self-reflection is a conscious effort to think about events and develop insights into them. It’s a habit that can be developed and worked on.
So let’s bring this into day to day life then. Keeping a journal of learning experiences is easy to do. In this journal you should jot down everyday activities and events. Writing down what happened is the first step to reflecting what you learnt from those events, what you did well, and what you could or should have done differently.
Try this as a process to follow:
Identify a situation you encountered in your work or personal life that you believe could have been dealt with more effectively
Describe the experience. What happened? What was the outcome? How did you and others feel about that outcome? When and where did the situation occur? Any other thoughts you have about the situation?
Reflection. How did you behave? What thoughts did you have? How did it make you feel? Were there other factors that influenced the situation? What have you learned from the experience?
Theorising. How did the experience match with your preconceived ideas, i.e. was the outcome expected or unexpected? How does it relate to any formal theories that you know? What behaviours do you think might have changed the outcome?
Experimentation. Is there anything you could do or say now to change the outcome? What action(s) can you take to change similar reactions in the future? What behaviours might you try out?
If keeping a journal doesn’t appeal to you or feels too structured or formal. How about using these questions instead?
- Strengths – What are my strengths? For example, am I well organised? Do I remember things?
- Weaknesses – What are my weaknesses? For example, am I easily distracted? Do I need more practise with a particular skill?
- Skills – What skills do I have and what am I good at?
- Problems – What problems are there at work/home that may affect me? For example, responsibilities or distractions that may impact on study or work.
- Achievements – What have I achieved?
- Happiness – Are there things that I am unhappy with or disappointed about? What makes me happy?
- Solutions – What could I do to improve in these areas?
Self-reflection can mean more meaningful discussions about career development, and your personal development. It can also help you think of examples to use in competency-based interview situations if you’re at that point too!
It’s great at increasingly self-awareness – a key part of emotional intelligence – and developing a better understanding of other people. Both important leadership skills. If leadership development isn’t your thing, self-reflection can also help your creative thinking skills and encourage active engagement in work processes.
Self-reflection should be flexible, portable and easy to pick up and put down. So don’t tie yourself in knots trying to follow someone else’s system. Jump in and try it. Apply your own style and do what feels comfortable for you. It’s simply about stopping. Thinking about a situation. Thinking about your actions. Asking yourself if you could have done things differently. Can we all find 10 minutes in our day to do this?