The Amazing Benefits of Self-Reflection
At Harvard Graduate School of Education, students in the Language and Literacy class, led by Lecturer Pam Mason, are videotaped in the classroom while they are teaching. Grades from the class, however, are not determined from Mason’s evaluation of the tapes, but rather her evaluation of the students’ own responses from watching the tapes. The students are evaluated based on their ability to self-reflect on their own teaching methods and behaviors in the classroom and, from there, learn and make changes from their own self-review.
This is just one methodology that acknowledges and supports the benefits of Self-Reflection. Self-Reflection is a powerful tool that we can all use, with or without videotaping ourselves. It can give us a chance to take a step back from who we believe or think that we are, and see more clearly who it is that we truly are and how we show up in the world.
It allows us a space to evaluate our lives today and guide ourselves toward what direction we want or need to go to get to our desired tomorrow. Below are just a few specific ways in which looking inside both professionally and personally supports our growth.
Gives Us Perspective
They say that hindsight is 20/20. We can see things much more clearly when we are not in the midst of things. Taking the time to reflect on your day and how you showed up in certain interactions allows us to potentially see things from another perspective. You might think of a conversation with a coworker and how they seemed very curt with you. At the time, you might have assumed the worst, like, they don’t like you or they think you’re terrible at your job. But, in taking the time to reflect on the situation, you might also remember that days earlier, they were telling you about how stressed they were knowing of a hard deadline coming up. Remembering and noting this would make their reaction more understanding and seem less of a personal attack. Taking the time to reflect helps us see things a little more clearly.
Gives Us Clarity
Reflecting on things that happened throughout the day and how we feel about them helps us to clarify what it is that we actually want. Sometimes something may trigger us; we might feel sad or mad but aren’t really sure why. Allowing ourself the time to be with that feeling and ask ourself why we may have felt that way helps us to know what is actually bothering us. For example, a patient may have been non-apologetic and extremely late for their appointment. And though patients can often be late, for some reason, it bothered you more today. It could be that you aren’t actually mad at the patient, but you are harboring angry thoughts towards your loved ones who constantly show up late to dinners that you host.
Only after taking the time to self-reflect will we have more clarity around how we feel about certain situations and what it is that we want. With our newfound knowledge, we now have the ability to share that information with those who can help. Now that you know that you are unhappy when your relatives are late, you will be able to speak with them and verbalize how you feel, such as, unimportant or taken for granted, when they constantly show up late. And, you can ask them to make the effort to be on time in the future.
Renews Satisfaction and Purpose
Our days can often become similar to the next when we get into a routine. We wake up, go to work, go to the gym, watch TV, find some time to eat in between, and go to bed. Because of this, it can be easy to get into a rut or feel like our days are dull and lackluster. Taking the time to reflect on each day can help remind us of what’s important and why we do what we do. We might remember a win that we had at work and how it felt when our hard work was acknowledged or appreciated. Or we might recall a conversation with a loved one that reminded us just how important they are to us and how it’s worth it to put effort forth into spending time with them.
Supports a Successful Future
They say that history repeats itself. And our own personal history is no different. If we don’t take the time to reflect and learn from our mistakes, we’re doomed to repeat them. But, when we take the time to review those things that may not have gone the way we wanted, we can learn how we want to show up and do it differently next time. Or, we can look at the times when we were successful, how we showed up in those instances, and feel confident for a future similar situation.
Guidelines for Self-Reflection
Here are some guidelines to follow when practicing self-reflection to help you get the most out of your time.
Put in on the Schedule:
Putting something in writing, whether it be adding it to our online calendar, our daily to-do list, or setting it as a reminder on our phone, solidifies a commitment to completing the action. Seeing a task in front of us reminds us of why we wrote it down in the first place. If it was important enough for us to write it down, it’s important enough for us to complete it. It also helps to make it a priority.
It can be far too easy for us to get swallowed into a hole of self-pity and judgment when self-reflecting; what we did or didn’t do during the day, what we said or didn’t say, mistakes we made, and opportunities we lost. It’s extremely important to simply observe these things and reflect on what learning opportunities we have for next time. Self-reflection isn’t a time to judge ourselves or beat ourselves up. It’s a time to neutrally observe and, if we’re willing, to make an intention for a different approach next time.
Let Go of What You Can’t Control:
Self-reflection only works for those aspects of the day which we actually have control over. It can be tempting to look at conversations or interactions with others and think about how the other person should have acted differently. It can be just as tempting to wish that an external factor was different than it was. Knowing what we have no control over and letting go of it supports us in having the energy to take action on what we actually can control.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the benefits of Self-Reflection and some helpful guidelines, we can’t forget the last and most important step of Self-reflection: taking action. It’s one thing to reflect, evaluate and know how we want to show up in the future. It’s another to do it. So, however, and whenever you choose to self-reflect, take it one step further and make a commitment to yourself to change whatever isn’t working for you once you find out what that is.
Self-Reflection works immensely, not just for individuals, but for organizations as well. Although it can be more difficult for some CEO’s and leaders in an organization to see their role or the structure of the organization clearly, at David Couper Consulting, we can help your organization get a better idea of itself, set up a method of self-reflection, and even determine a game plan for how to shift what may no longer be working. Contact us at info@DavidCouperConsulting.com to get started.
Melissa Schoenecker is a freelance writer and co-creator of the universe based in Venice, California. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and a Master's Degree from the University of Santa Monica. She contributes to a number of blogs and online postings, but her best work can be found in her gratitude journal.