Reflective Practice

Reflective Practice

By Emma Thompson, Monday 23rd of December 2019

For many of us today marks the start of a well-deserved period of rest and recovery from a busy time at work and the start of wonderful festivities with family and friends. As we draw closer to the end of the year (and the decade!) it is natural that we reflect on all that has happened in our lives and start to build ideas, goals and aspirations for what next year might bring. However, the clarity and perspective that this reflection brings at this time of year is a valuable tool and practice that can be utilised regularly throughout our working lives.

What is Reflective Practice?

“Our capacity to reflect on our actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning.” Donald Schon

Put simply, Reflective Practice is a way of gaining meaning from our experiences at work and in life. Too often we assume that learning has to involve attending a course, reading a book, gaining another qualification, when we are in fact learning from everything that we are doing every day.

Reflective Practice is the art of noticing this learning and using it to make better choices or more informed future decisions, and connecting this to our goals and ambitions. 

Even better, some of the benefits of creating a regular habit of reflective practice are those things that mark the qualities of an authentic and adaptive leader, including:

  • Increased self-awareness and emotional regulation
  • Making decisions which show good judgement and awareness of risk
  • Growth in our capacity for innovation and curiosity about what is possible
  • Being compassionate to ourselves and others, building trust 

In his book, ‘The Pause Principle,’ Kevin Cashman states that, “pausing for self-awareness is like unlocking the doors to a series of rooms. While reflective pause is the key to unlocking self-awareness, self-awareness in turn opens the doorways to authenticity, character and purpose.” By building in this time for pause and reflective practice, we are bettering ourselves not just in our leadership, but in our own personal character and sense of purpose. 

So how do we do it?

Before we start:

  • Make it a HABIT- For reflective practice to work it has to be something that we undertake little and often. If it helps, diarise it e.g. 15 minutes a week on a Monday or Friday morning- but make a commitment to do it.
  • Give it your full attention- make sure there are no distractions.
  • Be aware of your pace- slow down, but practise in a way with which you feel comfortable. That might be meditation, mindfulness, breathing or maybe running or exercising to clear your headspace. 
  • Be curious- approach this practice without any judgement or self-criticism. This is not a judgement on what you have done right or wrong, remember it is a learning process…

Step 1: Relive it      

  • Recall and describe what happened in a way that makes sense to you. 
  • You could keep a reflective journal, free-write, free-draw, dictate out loud or re-write the events as a narrative.

Step 2: Reflect and review

  • Look at the events you have recalled- notice what was happening and critically analyse it. 
  • What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
  • What was good or bad about it? 
  • What sense can you make of why it happened? 
  • What else could you have done?

Step 3: Reframe it 

  • Can you capture some new understanding of what happened from your reflection and analysis? 
  • Can you use what you have learnt or observed to create some new actions from your new perspectives? 
  • If the same situation arises again what will you now choose to do?

A final note from us

In his seminal book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning*,’ holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes, “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Building regular opportunities for reflective practice into our lives can enable us to look at our triggers and our responses, and use the opportunity for pause to make more considered choices for the betterment of ourselves and others.  

We wish you all a reflective, but mostly joyful festive season with your loved ones and we are so looking forward to connecting and working with many of you in 2020!

*If you haven’t read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’ then stick it on your Christmas list quick! It is one of the best books ever written and you won’t find a better one on the topic of finding meaning and purpose from life.