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As we draw towards the end of the year, the decade no less, there seems to be massive focus on planning and intention setting for 2020. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for planning and intention setting – I’m also a massive fan of reflecting and taking stock. 

In our hustle filled, adrenaline fuelled world it is easy to forget this stage – to move on and not learn what needs to be learned, not take time to enjoy the great bits and celebrate the successes. In my view that would also be a real waste of your experiences.

Good planning comes from the highs & lows of previous experiences, from evidence, from understanding cause and effect, as well as the randomness of life that can sometimes cause unexpected consequences. It shouldn’t be some loose wish list of things you would like to happen. If you don’t take time to reflect, to truly connect with the year just finishing you’ll miss the great wisdom it brings, the things to plan into your next year – or decade, and those to avoid wherever possible.  

Back in my health days reflection – or reflective practise, was a big part of our training. It still forms part of most health professionals ongoing registration requirement as it does with most therapy and coaching qualifications. Of course, there are many fancy models for reflection and if you like a framework most have merit, the key is choosing one that resonates with how you process naturally – for example if you are very emotion driven the Gibbs Model might suit you, if you are more logic-oriented Kolb’s model may suit you. In its purest form, reflective practice is, like many things, quite simple. There are differences between reflection and just ‘thinking’ about stuff, which can often send you down a less than constructive rabbit hole – especially if you are good at ‘what ifs’. Reflection is about making time to consider what you’ve done or experienced, how you felt about it and what, if anything, might you do differently in the future. This is why I tend to do reflection with Rolfe et al’s model:

What? – this is the descriptive part, what happened, what was your role, what were others actions / responses, what are the associated feelings, what were the consequences – you may well have a few of your own favourite ‘what’ questions to add in here.

So what? – these are really about options, learning and values – for example so what does this tell you about yourself, about the people involved, about what you could do, about what you won’t do, about what you need and about what you’ve learned. It’s really about exploration and understanding – what does your experience mean for you moving forward.

What now? – this is about insights and action – what will be different, how can you prevent a repeat or create one, what can you plan for, do you need to revisit this experience – maybe discuss with others involved, how do you learn what you need to learn and move on.

As your brain tends towards social processing on its own, it is quite likely you will mull over (or even dwell on) what’s happened – particularly things you may not feel quite comfortable with or things that have not gone how you hoped. I see reflection as a bit of conscious brain training to get the best out of the thinking I’m likely to do anyway. Like all neurological stuff, a simple conscious process of reflection or working through what you’ve experienced, quickly becomes a habit when practiced regularly.

Unless you can understand, unpick and draw out the value of your past year (or decade) and you have courage to act on your findings, you are likely to live the same experiences over and over. Before you rush into planning, I urge you to spend some time reflecting using a super simple ‘what’ sequence. Remember to focus on the wins, the things you want more of and the things you love, as well as where you might want things to be different.

Good luck and as always if you want to share, do join us in the Braver Business group.