Do you practice honest reflection in your everyday life? Are you looking for a way to grow your insight, in everyday life experiences?
This post is all about personal growth, through reflection. I hope you find it helpful.
Reflection. I am not just talking about admiring your gorgeous self in the mirror. That is a good practice, too! Here, I am talking about reflection in the sense of being reflective.
A lot of what I know about reflection (reflexivity) is from my career as a former clinical/staff nurse and now as an academic. Since I am always sharing the benefits of reflection with my students (and others!), I thought I’d share it here because it really does apply to everyday life.
It applies no matter where you are, where you work, or what you do! Reflection requires us to be present, honest and maybe even a little bit vulnerable — thereby allowing us to learn from examining our experiences truthfully, without judgment.
“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” — John Dewey
To move beyond John Dewey’s quote about reflection, it is important to consider that BEING reflective requires more than just reflecting on a situation, after the fact.
Eventually, the more reflective you are, the more mindful you will become.
There is a trajectory that occurs with reflexivity. Some areas of life you may be achieving, winning and even excelling. For example, your work meetings, or conversations with your spouse are really going well.
There may be other areas that you’re still working on…Or, maybe you’re feeling a million miles away from being where you want to be in your growth journey. And that HONESTY, my friend, is what will keep you growing. If you think you’re perfect (ahem, no one is), you can’t really grow much, can you?
First, let’s break it down:
- In reflection, you’ll start to think about an experience, after it happened. What went well? What didn’t? What will you CHANGE in the future when you’re in a similar situation?
- Moving from that reflection on an experience after it has occurred will eventually lead to the ability to reflecting-in-action (which is more about stepping back and re-framing the situation in order to regroup and move toward the desired outcome).
- Once that is mastered, you will be able to have an internal dialogue with yourself IN the moment (to make sense of the situation and respond in the best possible way at that moment). Sounds exciting, right?
- Finally, the icing on the cake is being mindful in and AT the moment – seeing things as they truly are…
(Adapted from Johns’, 2017)
Being reflective “…is a dialogue of thinking and doing through which I become more skillful.” (Schon)
So — what do we need to honestly reflect and move toward mindful responses?
Reflection requires curiosity, commitment, and intelligence (Johns, 2017). I am no Christopher Johns’ (not even close), but from my own life experiences, I would also add optimism, honesty, and vulnerability, too!
Curiosity is about being curious about the world, and curious about our own ideas, patterns and opening up of so many possibilities.
Commitment seems self-explanatory but the fact is, to move from reflecting on action to being mindful takes time and commitment.
Intelligence comes with being open to other people’s ideas. This is NOT about IQ, rather it is about being open to ideas, thereby growing your intelligence and awareness of the world around you. It requires openness. This, in turn, allows you to learn and grow. In the future, this new, embodied knowledge becomes mindful intuition.
Deep stuff, I know.
Optimism is required because reflecting is really about hope for a better outcome. To participate in truly reflective practices, you must be optimistic that things can be better. If you’re stuck, negative and pessimistic and think that everything is just FINE the way it is, reflection won’t work!
And let’s be real, there is ALWAYS room for growth. If you disagree, you may not be acknowledging that you’re a human.
We are by nature, perfectly imperfect! That is the joy of being HUMAN.
Being reflective also takes honesty and even a little bit vulnerability with ourselves.
In reflection, we have to admit (gasp) that we are NOT perfect. And that IS (gasp) OKAY. Life isn’t about perfection. It’s about progress, and however that looks for each individual will be a little different.
Reflection is also humanistic. In academia, students often write reflections on their experiences because, in the end, it helps them to learn and grow and eventually, and in the end, they do better the next time they come across a similar situation. What a wonderful experience, if we allow ourselves to work through the process.
This process applies to all aspects of our lives. Should it stop when we are no longer in a formal learner role? I’d wager to say NO.
This process is truly lifelong and transformational learning that can happen anywhere, anytime.
You may be thinking, yes, I am somewhat convinced. Might be good … but …
HOW do I do it?
Here’s the other cool thing about reflection — you can reflect formally and informally.
You can use a journal, or take a voice memo, or even write a “note” on your phone. This process does not have to be cumbersome or astronomical. It can be simple and the outcomes can be beautiful.
Eventually, with consistent and ongoing reflection, we will be skilled enough to adapt our new knowledge to being at a point where we can reflect IN and AT the moment, eventually having a positive internal dialogue with ourselves and can become more mindful, in the present moment.
Here’s how reflective practices help with growth (in all disciplines and in all aspects of life):
- Reflection develops self-awareness
- Reflection allows us to be honest with ourselves in a safe space and promotes self-compassion and compassion for others.
- Reflection helps us be more intentional in how we speak, interact and work day to day.
- Reflection promotes growth and learning.
- Reflection is personal and professional growth and development.
- Reflection is about knowing, and knowing better, so you can DO better in the future.
- Reflection is empowerment. It comes from within you!
- Reflection promotes mindfulness if practiced consistently.
- Reflection helps us to make sense of the world around us.
When you reflect on a situation, a conversation, or an interaction it can help us to think about HOW we were feeling in that moment, to gain greater clarity and understanding.
That is the first question I ask myself when reflecting and has been adapted from Christopher Johns’ work on reflective practice. (This guy knows his stuff – he was a Professor of Nursing and now supervises Ph.D. students whose research is within reflexive narratives).
Here are the questions:
1) How was I feeling and what made me feel that way?
Ask yourself: Was I feeling happy, sad, elated, angry, rushed, anxious, distracted, unsure, or perhaps nervous?
Considering our emotional states really helps us to figure out why the conversation or situation ended up the way it did. Don’t judge it, just acknowledge it.
This is NOT about beating ourselves up, this is about the acknowledgment of a situation, our emotions, and the circumstances so that we can GROW. You have to be a little vulnerable to grow. I know it can be uncomfortable, but it’s true.
Other questions you can ask in your own reflections:
2) What was I trying to achieve?
3) Did respond effectively?
4) What were the consequences of my actions (for myself and for others)?
5) How were others feeling, and what makes them feel that way?
6) What went WELL about the situation? What didn’t go so well?
7) How has this changed my own knowing and knowledge?
8) Based on that, what would I change, in the future?
The wonderful part of reflecting is that over time, your knowledge and self-awareness will grow.
The final question is what would I change in the future?
Perhaps it’s considering the next time you’re upset about a situation, or what someone said to you, that you will respond right away instead of stewing over it.
Or you will re-consider how you worked through a challenging situation with a colleague at work. Maybe it is recognizing the way someone has perceived you based on your actions, and you realize that you need to check in with your own emotional intelligence to learn and grow from it…
Tell me your perspectives:
Do you use reflection in your day-to-day life?
Share with us in the comments about your own reflective practices? What works well, for you? How can people become honest and vulnerable with themselves while focusing on the positives that come from this process?
With sincere gratitude that you’re here.
For more tips on communicating in difficult situations, please have a peek at my blog post about Communication Matters, coming soon!
About Johns’ Model of Structured Reflection. Retrieved from: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/students/upgrade/study-skills/reflective-writing-johns/
Johns, C. (2017). Becoming a Reflective Practitioner, 5th edition. Wiley & Sons.
Johns, C (1995). Framing learning through reflection within Carper’s fundamental ways of knowing in nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing 22, 226-34.