As I’ve been chatting with school divisions over the past few months, reflection has been a common theme in our conversations. I’m seeing how powerful it is to take the time to reflect, whether that’s at an individual, school or even school division level.
So what exactly does reflection mean? From my handy Google search, it’s defined as “serious thought and consideration.” If you ask me, Google’s pretty much hit the nail on the head. As I think of the conversations that school divisions have had around reflection, they really are all about that deep thinking and exploration. Those conversations have included a range of things, from check-ins with staff and students to understand their well-being and how they’re feeling to ruminating on the last few months of work and what learnings can be carried forward into the new school year. When we talk about reflection, we’re really talking about getting curious—diving deeper into how we understand both ourselves and others.
Often, we live our day-to-day lives on autopilot. We have our established routines and habits—and that’s both necessary and totally okay! But that does mean it’s important to take the time to consciously step back and really process and be curious about our daily experiences, as doing so can enable a better understanding of how we think and feel. Here’s how a 2017 Harvard Business Review article puts it: “Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions.” There’s so much we can learn through reflection when we simply allow ourselves the time to do it. What’s more, research also tells us that reflection is an important part of our well-being; it’s been proven to have a positive impact on our outlook on life, learnings, memory, attitudes and our ability to manage change.
Of course, while we know there’s a lot to be gained through reflection, it’s often easier said than done. After all, reflection will look different for everyone! So, if you’re wondering how to get started, here are a few tips to help:
- Schedule time to reflect. This might sound unnecessary, but often we skip taking the time for reflection because of our busy schedules and the routines we already have in place. Give yourself time to disconnect and reflect. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference. If you’re not sure where to start, try our 10-minute time quadrants activity to figure out what’s most important to you and how you can prioritize tasks and time for yourself.
- Try journaling. The act of writing down your thoughts can help you better explore and understand how you’re feeling and improve your mental health. Try some tips from this great blog to help you streamline your thoughts while you journal—whether they’re about personal wellness planning, collaborating on a school wellness initiative or something else entirely!
- Ask reflective questions. This can be done both as an individual and with your teams. Appreciative inquiry can be a helpful tool for positive change. For your teams, try putting together a list of reflective questions you can explore as you plan for the future. To learn more about the power of words and how you and your work team can get curious together, check out this blog.
- Make workplace reflection a common practice. Practice reflection at work and encourage it to be the new normal. Deborah Connor, an organizational health coach, offers some great ideas on how you can incorporate reflection into the workplace. She defines reflective action as “giving team members the necessary space and time to be reflective, which in turn improves decision-making capacity.” This can be done by sending out team agendas and tasks that need to be accomplished during meetings ahead of time, taking breaks during meetings for reflection or capturing team ideas individually and then taking the time to explore those thoughts.
Reflection isn’t about dwelling on past mistakes or challenges—it’s about getting curious, thinking about your experiences and then applying what you’ve learned as you move forward. We all have our own journeys and the learnings we bring forward from our experiences are what can make a good team great! As Walt Disney says, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” With reflection comes curiosity, and with curiosity comes discovery—and you don’t want to miss out on that next discovery!