Author: David Tinker MSc. OD Consultant and Executive Coaching Supervisor.
Your task: Go to a mirror in a private space sometime today. Stand in front of it and look at yourself for a minute and notice how you feel and the thoughts that emerge.
As I’ve described this small task notice your thoughts and feelings right now. Welcome to the world of self-reflection.
Self-reflection 1 – Standing in front of a mirror to look at ourselves for more than just a ‘how will I appear to others’ check may seem strange and slightly intimidating. A minute! What will I see? Do I really want to be seen?
Self-reflection 2 – You’ve been asked your thoughts and feelings at doing the task. Do these thoughts mean you’ll leap at the first chance you have to find a mirror, will you leave it for hours and hope the task goes away, or will you reject the task as ridiculous.
Even though the benefits of self-reflection are well documented it’s not the kind of activity we get drawn to without acknowledging the associated challenges, and finding ways around them. If the benefits include improved performance at work, stronger relationships everywhere and less stress in our lives (so we live longer!) then it must be worth taking a few first steps in finding a mirror.
The problem with self-reflection is that it takes effort and energy. Energy is initially required to make the time, stop everything else for a moment, stand back and detach enough from everyday stuff and see things from a different perspective.
Additional energy is then required to help us overcome our self-criticism, shame and judgements (of self and others) so we can make sense of what’s really going on for ourselves and others. Only by doing this can we have greater choice about how we respond to everyday situations.
I notice there seem to be several routes into the practice of reflection:
Push – Not our choice:
Job/performance review as part of corporate HR/D processes.
Part of a training programme.
Skill required in role.
Pull – Reflection by choice:
Stirring in the belly – calling
Deep ambition for self-improvement
Part of community culture – it’s normal around here.
Hearing a well-respected/successful person speak about the benefits of reflection.
Stare at the moon and ask “why?”
Someone asks you a searching question.
Moments of synchronicity - meaningful coincidences that seem to have no cause.
Adverse or life-changing event such as cancer, death of a loved one. Time to re-think what really matters – values and philosophy of life.
So if you do happen to look in the mirror please do so as a pull of curiosity and smile with appreciation and care for the person reflected there.