18th March 2021
by Gordan Stokes

If someone offered you the opportunity, with the only investment being a little time, to:

  • Make your day more fulfilling
  • Provide the skills to meet new challenges
  • And allow you greater insight into what you are trying to achieve

Would you take them up on it?  Most people would likely respond with a guarded “sure”.  But, as with all good habits it is straightforward, and with a little application, can be a part of anyone’s everyday activities.  Reflection or reflective thinking is a way to pause and to review what you have done and to put it into perspective.  We typically only look at things in detail after the fact if something went wrong.  What happened?  Why?  How?  Could we have done things differently?  It is in our nature to ask these questions when things go wrong, but we rarely do the same for successes.  Reflective thinking allows us to consider all the important events in our professional and personal lives and to make the learnings from the reflection a tangible and guiding thought.

A simple example might be your successful delivery of a speech at a company event.  You know, that for various reasons, you didn’t prepare and put down your success to a bit of luck and an ability to say things off the cuff.  However, by reflecting on what happened you will realise certain things helped your success in the speech, more than an innate ability to ‘wing it’.  Firstly, you may have been giving the subject great thought already and be au fait with the subject to a good degree.  You may also have a strong opinion on the subject which allowed you to present a passionate and engaging speech.  The list could go on, but with a little reflection you may realise that there were factors that hadn’t occurred to you that helped you succeed.  The next time you give a speech you will know you didn’t ‘wing it’ at all but had spoken from a point of knowledge and passion.

Reflective thinking allows us to process what has happened in a meaningful way.  We understand the reasons and motivations and also then learn from them as well.  Reflective thinking is a way to remember things, to make memories, as well.  Some of the circumstances where you can apply it include:

  • Gain perspective on an event, large or small
  • Retain strong memories and learning from your experience
  • To gain insight
  • Test Ideas and refine them
  • Honestly understand what you need to change, about yourself or your circumstances
  • To learn, improve, and enjoy your life
  • And despite the temptation use it for the “Big Things” it will help you appreciate the little things in life.

Another significant benefit of reflective thinking is that, once you have reflected on something, you can let it go and move on.  It will still be there but no longer requires your full attention until the right time.

Reflective thinking won’t be the same for everyone but it does offer a valuable learning tool that will add nuance and understanding to your experiences.

Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous. Confucius

We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience. John Dewey          

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