This time of the year is a seasonal invitation for reflection on your personal life as well as your business. The coldness of the winter season in the Northern hemisphere leads us to spend more time inside warm homes, maybe enjoying a hot tea in front of a fireplace or a glass of red wine while reading the latest NYT bestseller. In Japan we are busy with attending one year-end party after the other until after Christmas when one of the most important holidays starts with the Japanese New Year, lasting from December 31 until January 4. During these holidays, which Japanese usually spend back home at their parent’s place, causing massive traffic jams on highways and sold out trains, especially when all return on January 4th, we have plenty of time to rest and reflect. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore this opportunity or are already overwhelmed by all the experiences of the past year that we rather numb ourselves in Champagne and in making new plans for next year without reflecting on this year.
Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess (based on Moon 1999).
Reflection provides the right conditions for learning. We slow down our activity when we reflect, giving us time to process information and link it with previous ideas. Tobin,1987, suggests that “there is evidence that when a lecturer pauses in a lecture, the ‘wait time’ enables students to learn better…”. Interesting in this regard is the importance of metacognition. Metagcognition is the awareness of one’s own cognitive functioning – in this case, learning. Good learners have better metagcognition processes than poor learners (Ertmer and Newby, 1996).
You can choose to reflect and learn and build a regular process into your life that assists you in integrating a structure for continuous learning. Reflection is not limited to failures. It is also very effective when we reflect on successes, achievements, great experiences and other positive aspects that we might take for granted or put into our collection of accolades. Reflecting on those things that worked and didn’t work helps us in identifying patterns which we then can choose to repeat or change. Here are 5 questions that give you a start and structure for reflecting. Pick an event that you experienced and ask yourself:
- What happened?
- Was it a good, neutral or bad experience?
- What made it such an experience for you?
- How would you do it differently next time?
- What did you learn from this experience?
You might want to conclude each reflection with some action to be taken by you. Putting your intellectual work into practical steps is better sustaining your learning. Our mind likes to solve complex situations and reflecting on experiences is part of this. However, if we do not follow up with practical integration, it all might stay as theory in our mind.
These are some methods for reflecting activities:
- keeping a journal or diary in writing or audio format
- reflective exercises in different forms (visual, dance, painting, singing, etc.)
- peer reflection (you reflect on things in a conversation with a peer)
- coaching (you reflect on things with the help of a coach, who is actively listening and asking powerful questions and who also helps you to stay accountable for your learnings)
I am a certified coach and in order to get certified in this profession I had to learn how to not only coach powerfully, but also experience the other side of it, the receiving side, in order to understand the impact of coaching and the processes clients go through and need to go through. Sometimes reflecting on your life experiences is not easy. We tend to avoid our own truth, especially when we perceive it as sort of ugly or embarrassing or even annoying. Yet, the only way to learn from those experiences is by facing yourself in the mirror, accepting what is and have a good look at the whole You, not just the perceived ugly parts, which we tend to focus on. A coach provides you with the safe environment in which it is not as scary and uncomfortable as it would be when you do it on your own. A coach also helps you to not ignore your beauty, intelligence and wonderful humanness, which we tend to take for granted or haven’t even realized. We get to see our whole and get to choose which piece of the human puzzle we like to change a bit to the better. A powerful coach is your travel companion on this journey.
I invite you to give yourself a gift or pass this gift on to someone who you would like to celebrate. Get a coach for a minimum of 2 hours and reflect on your past year. Start with celebrating the small and big wins, the peak experiences and get yourself warmed up like getting a soft tissue massage for your heart. Then you will be ready to work out and take on some of the rather difficult conversations with yourself (and the coach). It’s a refreshing shower of self-appreciation and appreciation for others and an energizing way to start a new calendar year. It’s also a magic first step into establishing and integrating a structure for regular reflection and continuous learning and development.
At Paradigm Shifters, we specialize in helping people improve their emotional intelligence to become better conscious leaders. For more information on our coaching methods and how we can help you achieve your goals, call us today at (+1) 415-702-0334. Or you can fill out our online contact form at your convenience, and one of our team members will be in touch with you presently.