Make Reflection a Reflex All Year Long

Sky Capriolo

December is a natural month to look back at your year and take note of the good, the bad and the ugly. Reflecting much more often, though, is associated with many benefits for your personal and professional worlds. Let’s dive into this amazing soft skill that can create waves of positive changes when incorporated regularly into your life.

Create a Better You writes that the value of self-reflection is its ability to show you what’s working well in your life, as well as what needs to be adjusted. When we reflect, we’re really letting our internal emotions, behaviors, and motives stare straight into a mirror only our mind can see. It can be daunting, especially when we reflect on situations that made us angry, sad or generally uncomfortable. But confronting those times is critical to understanding how to navigate them more smoothly in the future. You get a fresh perspective without the intense feelings, which helps facilitate a better understanding of what happened and why you reacted the way you did. 

The Better Up article tagged above is full of self-reflection questions to ask yourself, prompts to ignite inner thoughts, and tips on how best to use reflection as a great tool for better self-awareness. In fact, self-awareness (we wrote about it before) and self-reflection go hand in hand. 

Make It Your Business Model

Harvard Business Review published an article describing research that shows the ability to reflect well separates the extraordinary professional from the mediocre. Without reflection, other soft skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and communication will fail to be as impactful. By the way, these are key indicators of a person’s potential to be a great leader. 

HBR regular contributors James R. Baily and Scheherazade Rehman asked 442 executives to reflect on instances that most advanced their professional development. With great candor, they spoke of both the embarrassing and the triumphant. Baily and Rehman found that three sentiments were repeated most often and had the most value for career growth:

  • Surprise – the unexpected, good or bad, is always worth reflection
  • Failure – public (and private) mistakes offer learning opportunities
  • Frustration – delays in meeting a goal can lead to improvements

Overall, being able to recognize when things didn’t go well, AND celebrate when they did, creates opportunities for learning, innovating, and improving. Perhaps your company does performance reviews at certain intervals. This is a type of reflection that can generate discussion, goal setting, and course-correcting, and when done well, it can build a stronger relationship between managers and their teams. 

Reflection in Practice

We know why reflection is important, but how do you implement it in a meaningful way? There are some general tips for starting and continuing this beneficial habit.

  • Keep a journal and review it at solid intervals. It could be daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, but it’s important to capture your reflections as they happen so you remember the circumstances clearly. 
  • Leave space to add retrospective notes to your journal. Hindsight being 20/20 is a side effect of reflection and a great way to grow or improve. 
  • Practice gratitude daily. Reminding yourself of your blessings helps bring positivity to all you do. Having a positive outlook creates a chain reaction of good feelings which can help most situations you encounter.
  • Set goals so you know what you’re working toward and can measure your progress as you reflect on each step. What worked? What didn’t? Any unexpected realizations?

The words “reflect” and “reflex” are homophones. They don’t mean the same thing, but they can work together well. As you start to make self-reflection part of your daily toolkit, remember this sentence: She reflects so often, it’s become a reflex in most situations. That’s the goal! Make reflection an automatic reaction to master this method of self-improvement. Good luck!

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