The art of reflection: a life skill to lead our lives
I recently wrote a post on LinkedIn about the art of reflection. It seems that our western society thrives on being busy. This busyness makes us uncomfortable with taking time out to reflect and pause. Reflection is a practice and a skill which can be learnt and developed over time. It allows us to create a pause between our thoughts and often emotional responses and actions.
Reflection helps us gain perspective, come to terms with events, learn from our experiences and enjoy moments of gratitude.
So, reflection is about our lived experience, as humans.
Yes, I know, it is actually focusing an “inner world” full of perceptions, thoughts and feelings which are not “real per say”. When we reflect, we review events through our own lens and with a little bit of chance, we also take into account other perspectives or we learn to recognise the tented lenses we wear and with which we experience our life.
How do you reflect?
When I asked this question to my colleagues and clients, I get a wide range of responses. I have listed the most common ones below. I have come to the conclusion that we are all different and one solutions does not fit all. I believe that each method is valuable and you need to to choose what works best for you. I use a breadth of methods in my life and practice as a leadership coach and consultant.
- gratitude journal
- swimming or walks in nature
- recording thoughts
- breathing exercises
- reviewing your day as if you were watching a film in slow motion (this method is my favourtite)
The power of reflection in leadership
Research suggests that reflection boosts performance and our capacity to learn. The working paper Learning by thinking: how reflection aids performance shows that taking time off to think, can help boost performance and improve decision making. The authors Gino and Pisano concluded that our ability to stop, reflect and think about our learning, helps us improve our confidence and motivation, which in turn can boost performance.
Interestingly, very few organisations allow us to reflect on our work.
I have had the privilege to work across sectors and deliver project leadership programmes to diverse groups. When we discuss the end of review project, the room always turns silent!
There does not seem to be time to reflect on what went well, what could have been solved differently or what we could be become best practice. And so much knowledge, good-will and motivation can be lost when we are so eager to keep going and “never stop to reflect”. Projects have a different paces, like in music, and the art of reflection needs to be embedded in our life and work culture.
Reflecting on thinking and behavioural habits
Let’s see how the art of reflecting can become a life skill to lead our lives.
Are you aware of your bad habits? Typical response mechanisms you have developed to protect yourself or get what you want? Let’s reflect…
Not an easy topic to cover…It takes courage to look at our preferred thinking and response styles. Some of us have mastered the art of avoidance, perfectionism or competitiveness! (except me of course:-)
Does this sound familiar? Or can you spot these trends in others…it always seems easier to reflect on other’s behaviours!
In my coaching sessions, I often use a wonderful tool, developed by Lafferty, which focuses on the 12 thinking and response styles we tend to use in life. It is a questionnaire that helps you reflect on your preferred styles. Your results are added on a large clock (the circumplex) which provides a visual representation of your preferred thinking and response styles.
We can then reflect, review and identify healthier ways to think and respond in a given situation. This is where the learning takes place and the coaching space gives you the opportunity to develop affiliative, empowering and compassionate responses. One day at a time!