The Reflective Habit

You often don’t know what you don’t know. The secret is to create opportunities for you to learn from books, videos and other people. It is often during conversations that you experience light bulb moments. It is such a joy not only to feel the realisation in yourself but also to witness it on the faces of others. The rush is so exhilarating that it’s like a super drug, and you seek more and more reflective opportunities for new knowledge and your advancement.

I became more conscious of these light bulb moments and learning leaps when I went to university as a mature student to study education. Excited at the thought of training as a teacher, I was curious to learn more about a new 1990’s buzz phrase, ‘Reflective Practioner’. Looking back, it was the best habit I would learn as a teacher. It became evident that every aspect of your teaching was a reflection process. When creating this practice as a habit, it took diligence to use every day, and most effective was writing down the reflections of yourself, and your pupils learning.

Reflection is the thought process where individuals consider their experiences to gain insights about their whole practice. Reflection supports individuals to continually improve the way they work or the quality of relationships they develop with others.

The cliché ‘you learn from your mistakes’ underpins this conscious practice of looking back at what you thought, said and did. It is a multi-layered way of analysing your teaching. Any industry, career or job can apply these practices. As a leader, it becomes a lifestyle habit.

According to the University of Edinburgh, there are six cycles of reflection. I’m going to share three with you here. The simplest form is What? Now what? So what? This form of reflection utilises the rule of three to get to the crux of moving through reflection. You will think about an experience, its implications, and what that means for the future. Adopting this simple approach gives you a base layer; however, if more detail is required, Gibb’s Reflective Cycle may be the tool you prefer.

The cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. It is one of the most famous cyclical models of reflection, leading you through six stages exploring an experience: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan.

More recently, The Integrated Reflective Cycle (Bassot, 2013) is a model of reflection that will guide you through four steps to make sense of and learn from an experience. The model will allow you to explore feelings, assumptions and your professional practice.

What are the benefits of becoming a reflective practitioner, business owner or leader?

Reflection awakens awareness. Personal reflection encourages you to look within and take responsibility for your actions and outcomes. It also provides opportunities to develop and grow within a specific field of expertise by knowing and applying standards to your performance. Your mental health and well-being need to look at both positives and negatives to improve the learning opportunities in the future.

Reflection creates a dialogue. When teams engage in reflective practices, it is more likely that the members will buy into improving performance, service and themselves. Creating time and space to come together is essential for enhancing team spirit, culture, productivity, and profits. Leaders adopt these best practices to ensure collaboration is at the heart of their vision.

Reflection builds collective wisdom. A basic human need is to be heard and understood. Reflection within teams, both internal and external to a business, school or institution, allows for sharing experiences and expertise through discussion. Working and learning together often leads to ideas and actions that will increase meaningful and positive change.

Reflection fosters respect. Not only do you grow quicker as a reflective practitioner, but your sense of esteem rises too. Improved self-esteem radiates out when you engage in affiliations, joint ventures, and large businesses. Understanding that people and different professions may reflect using a variety of reflective processes deepens your respect for others.

It is wise to be sensitive to and respect the different modes of reflection of your colleagues. When you adopt this empathetic state, outcomes in many areas improve all around.

Reflection in teams needs careful facilitation. In many cases, formal and informal power dynamics may limit the value and positive power of reflection unless facilitated carefully and respectfully – all views need to be respected and listened to.

Reflection informs planning. Planning is part of the systemic operations of institutions, businesses and Leadership. It is an ongoing organic process and adjustments made according to the learning resulting from mistakes and successes. When you gather information through reflective practices, it can be used to shape, make adjustments and inform next steps in planning at every level, daily, monthly and yearly.

Reflection develops confidence. When you engage in reflective practices, they soon become a healthy habit. Each time you reflect, you are learning how to improve, to become better at what you think, say and do. A by-product of this reflective habit is that your decision-making improves too because of informed choices. When you compound all of the small step successes, your confidence naturally grows.

Reflection creates innovation. We all should embrace mistakes. Consider Edison and his achievement of designing the humble lightbulb. It took him 10,000 ways to find out how not to create a light bulb and one way to achieve his goal successfully. Reflection encourages innovation as each time you look wider for solutions to improve your results.

When you gather new information, skills and processes, you are in a stronger position to try new ideas, experiment and create your version of something important in your field of expertise.

Reflective practice encourages engagement. Being reflective helps you challenge your training as you will justify decisions and rationalise choices you have made.

It encourages you to understand different perspectives and viewpoints that focus on strengths, preferences, and developments. Reflecting on engaging with others provides opportunities for the learning of sharing best practices and different strategies.

Reflection benefits all. By adopting the reflective habit as a leader, you will encourage others to become innovative, confident, engaged, and responsible. Once you start the reflective process, your performance will improve. By getting involved in the reflective process, you will create an environment of partnership-working and increase your power of influence.

You take inspired action and are more aware of the goals you want to achieve, how you can accomplish them, and deliver consistent results with confidence ignited by conscious decision-making.

Your relationships become positive and demonstrate mutual respect; team members experience awakened awareness and feel part of the learning cycle. When you provide collaborative opportunities, your colleagues can ‘team up’, drawing on expertise and support. Adopting more reflective practices into your life and business will develop Leadership best practices. All of these things together result in a productive working environment.

The reflective habit endows you with the capacity for being a first-class problem solver. It enables you to consider different solutions that you can practice to improve your overall sense of achievement, success and fulfilment.

Brenda Dempsey is a Thriver, Action Woman and Spirited Leader. Transitioning is something Brenda embraces as it opens new opportunities, challenges and adventures revealing spirited leadership qualities of courage resilience and vision.   After 25 years she left her beloved teaching to take up the challenge of building an I CAN  Revolution of 10 MILLION Spirited Leaders who are raising their Voices of Courage, impacting change and creating extraordinary results for themselves, others and the world through imagination, innovation and influence.   No stopping Brenda (a diamond woman) during Covid-19, with a wealth of experience and expertise in writing and books, she created her new business Book Brilliance Publishing a Publisher with a difference for writers, speakers and entrepreneurs.  A Partnership Publishing House that puts its authors at the heart so they can partner their way to Success - Business Brilliance on a global stage where You Drive, We Navigate.