Without reflection, does anything ever get any better?

In life we perform a series of actions that allow us to achieve a number of different tasks or activities that contribute to an overall goal. Whether it might be taking the food waste out to the green bin, walking the dogs, or even travelling into work. But how many times in an actual day do we reflect???

An academic definition of reflection is concerned with consciously looking at and thinking about our experiences, actions, feelings, and responses, and then interpreting or analysing them in order to learn from them (Atkins and Murphy, 1994; Boud et al., 1994).

When have we stopped and thought: what have I just done? What has my team done? Or what benefit have my actions caused for me, others, and in our world, the residents of Essex?

Reflection helps people learn from positive and negative actions and is a key cognitive part of the learning process. There is so much good work being produced across the local authority, private sector and voluntary sector, but without reflection, we could spiral into a trap. Which begs the question:

Without reflection, does anything ever get any better?

We have all been guilty of this, so focused to finish that book you started reading on the train or finish that box-set everyone is talking about, or complete a piece of work relating to a project, but do we give adequate time to pause, think, gather our thoughts and process what we have just achieved and what we have learned from the experience?

“I don’t have time!” is a common comeback when asking people about reflection, and in that quote you can identify a solution too. Other responses could be “I didn’t think about it”, “I need to get on with something else”, “I did not realise how important it is”, and I for one have said all the above when I am rushing from one place to the next, not sufficiently managing how important reflection is.

But there should be no excuse. Everyone can reflect and use it to their benefit regardless of task, as it is in our human nature to learn and take knowledge to either repeat a specific task or work out how to apply it to a completely different activity. So how can we ensure that reflection is part of the work to educate others?  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Make designated time to reflect
  • Ask questions to yourself and of colleagues
  • Think of examples of how you can apply your learning to different situations
  • Get other people to help with your reflection

These elements we already do on a regular basis, but if we consciously make the effort to reflect, relating to performance the benefits are enormous.

We all have critical thinking skills inside us to gather, analyse and learn, and to further develop in our working world to improve performance not only individually, but collectively as a team.

So next time you are peeling the spuds in preparation for dinner or throwing a ball for your best friend to return (dog that is!!!) use the time to pause, take stock and reflect. You may be surprised just how much you have learnt.

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