Reflective Practice – Just What Is It?

reflective practice

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Hello everyone, I hope you had a good weekend. I took a weekend off work to recuperate and socialise with some good friends. I say that, I did spend most of Sunday helping my other half on her business, but to me that’s just fun! I love to help her.

Quite often you will come across new terms that you may not have heard before, but once explained they make perfect sense. Reflective practice is a perfect example of this. So just what is reflective practice?

Reflective practice is a modern term for the age-old practice of learning from experience. As the philosopher Plato encouraged centuries ago, “Know thyself.” The knowledge gained can be a series of stepping stones to success in all areas of your life.

In its most basic form, reflective practice is about thinking about what you do after you have done it. As part of the reflecting process, you note:

* What you did
* What happened as a result
* What the outcome was
* Whether you could do things better/differently next time

The Benefits of Reflective Practice

Most of us are so busy at work and home that we feel as if we haven’t got time to think. This can become a serious problem, however, because the less you think, the more you act – or rather, the more you react. And as most of us have discovered at some point, it is much better to act with purpose rather than react to a situation.

Very few people are at our best when we are stressed, on deadline, or just having a bad day for a number of reasons that don’t have anything to do with work, but which can have a negative impact on our career if we are not careful.

With reflective practice, you can observe what you have done, evaluate how successful the results were, and come up with a range of smarter choices on how to handle similar situations in the future. Instead of reacting in the moment, you can be proactive and think, “I have several choices in this situation.”  This will lead to better problem solving and decision making.

Opening Your Mind to the Possibilities

Once you realize you have several choices, you will feel a lot less trapped and stressed, and therefore be much less likely to snap at colleagues or say something to your boss that you will regret as soon as it comes out of your mouth.

In reflective practice, you are not just recalling what happened, but working as an active observer about the event, with a view to lessons learned from that “teaching moment.” The lessons might not just be relevant to that particular example, but the way you handle your work or home life in general. This means you can start to break free of patterns that might have been holding you back without you even realizing it.

How to Get Started with Reflective Practice

The first thing to realize is the difference between just thinking about an event, and reflecting on it. Your reflective practice will be a conscious effort to evaluate what happened and why, in order to help you gain insights about yourself – such as your working and communication styles, the way you handle significant relationships in your life, and more.

The first step is to practice reflective practice each day so it becomes a habit. A journal or private blog, or folder on your computer, can all help you examine an event or occurrence in detail. More and more people are using journaling each night, and I find it’s a great way to log the days events. At this point you can reflect on your day, and think about the situations you have encountered.

In the process of examining, there is no need to be negative and beat yourself up over what happened. A lot of us suffer from a great deal of negative self-talk and low self-esteem as it is, without heaping more onto ourselves. The process of reflective practice is not about being your own worst critic. Rather, it is empowering yourself by developing a toolkit for self-improvement.

The Liberating Power of Reflective Practice

We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Reflective practice can help you put things into perspective. “Disasters” can become just another thing to deal with. “Problems” can become challenges. This process is commonly termed “re-framing,” in which we look at the same event in a whole new way.

If you’ve been feeling “stuck” in your life, try reflective practice and see how transformative it can be. Try it for a few weeks, every day, and see how your actions become more positive because you have learnt from experience.

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