Monday, 11 September 2017

Reflection as a Tool for Self Development.

Reflection is a great little tool to help you on your self development journey. In this post I talk a little more about what reflection is, plus the process that comes with it alongside sharing 5 tips to help you utilise reflection more effectively in order to guide your self-development.

Reflection as a tool is something I started using during the very early days of my occupational therapy training. During the process of the degree you’re required to use reflection as a learning process to develop skills and clinical reasoning and to learn from experiences.

Initially I saw it as a necessary evil. I felt like I was, at times, reflecting for the sake of reflecting. And it’s true, I was doing that, particularly in the early days when I would write a reflection on any old thing. At that point, I hadn’t really twigged that the purpose was to reflect on something useful and relevant that would enhance my thinking, learning and benefit my practice. Well that penny did drop eventually, and reflection suddenly became a whole lot more meaningful.

So, what is reflection? Well in an informal sense, it’s something I’m sure we all do on a regular basis. We reflect on our day, reflect on situations and how they might have gone differently, reflect on our behaviour and the behaviour of others. It’s a process of evaluating your experience and learning from it. For me, this kind of reflection is done in my head, or maybe out loud on occasion, but usually in my head.

And then there’s the more formal reflective methods that I would use as part of my professional development. It’s not always written, but it’s usually guided by some form of reflective model and involves drawing in the evidence base in order to ensure that you’re critically analysing your activity against what the evidence reports. There are several reflective models, including Kolb, Gibbs and my personal favourite Borton. The reason I like Borton over the others is because it’s so simple, consisting of just three questions; what, so what and now what.

For me, the simplicity allows for flexibility and honestly, I personally find that far easier when guiding my reflective process than a more complex model like Gibbs. I find that the simplicity also lends itself well to being able to implement reflection whenever I need to, even if it’s just in my own thought processes. But, it’s important to remember that everyone is different and so what works for me might not work for you. I’d recommend, if you’re interested in reflection, that you spend a little time researching the different models out there and considering which one might fit better with your mindset and goals.

So how can reflection help on our self-development journey?

Reflection aids self-awareness. It encourages awareness of our own behaviour and actions, of how we respond and where we’re at in our journey. Self-awareness helps keep you accountable when working towards your goals. It allows you to know where you are, consider where you want or need to be and allows you to start to make positive steps in the right direction. Without self-awareness, you can’t acknowledge where you’re at now and what you feel needs to change. And in order to gain greater self-awareness, you need to reflect.

In the pursuit of self-development, the use of reflection isn’t always going to be pleasant. It might highlight particular circumstances where your actions or attitude didn’t align with where you want them to be. It’s important to be honest with yourself, although that might feel a little uncomfortable, but you have to work through those more negative feelings in a non-judgemental way as part of your journey. The purpose of reflection is to evaluate and then question “now what?”. What will you now do differently in order to ensure that your actions next time align more with your beliefs, values and future goals? And that, ladies and gents, is the start of self-development.

And so, the question is, how do you start to make reflection part of your regular routine?

1. Identify a method of reflection that works for you.

As I mentioned earlier, everyone is different and so in order for reflection to be meaningful it’s important to do a little work around the best method for helping you achieve your goals. Also consider whether you would prefer to reflect in your own head or maybe write it down – go with whatever helps your thought processes the most as ultimately this will be more beneficial when it comes to development.

2. Know your goals.

What is the purpose of your reflection. What are your trying to develop or work towards that would benefit from increased self-awareness and a reflective guide?

3. Set aside time.

Particularly in the beginning. It could be daily, weekly or even monthly depending on your goal and your journey. From experience reflection can easily fall by the wayside if you’re not actively making time for it as part of your regular routine.

4.  Be honest, open and non-judgemental.

If you’re looking to develop and increase self awareness then it’s likely you’re going to get uncomfortable at times. But that’s OK, it’s all part of the process. Allow yourself to be open to change and growth and try your best not to judge yourself. Remember, it’s a journey.

5.  Enjoy the process.

Reflection is all about learning. Through reflection you are growing and inching ever closer to where you want to be. And if that’s not a wonderful thing then I don’t know what is. Like I said, it won’t always be easy, but I’d like to hope that it’ll be worth it in the end.

Let's start a conversation:
Do you intend to bring more reflection into your life? If so I’d love to chat about how you want to go about it – leave your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan

Reflection is a great little tool to help you on your self development journey. In this post I talk a little more about what reflection is, plus the process that comes with it alongside sharing 5 tips to help you utilise reflection more effectively in order to guide your self-development.

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Jordan xx