When was the last time you paid detailed attention to how you walked across a room at home to open the door? When was the last time you had one of those car journeys where, when you arrived at your destination, you couldn’t remember anything of the journey? The ability of the human body and mind to run on auto-pilot is quite amazing. It enables us to fulfil familiar tasks with minimal conscious effort and attention, thereby allowing us to focus on other things we want or need to.
That’s the upside. And it’s a very useful upside for day-to-day life and work. The downside is that, in some situations, doing what we do because that’s what we do can cause us to miss important factors, significant variables and valuable learning opportunities. This is where reflective practice comes in. It’s what is says on the proverbial tin: reflection before, during and after action. Easier said than done, you may say. True: so here are some tips from experience that I’ve found useful.
Tip 1: Pause. If you don’t stop to think from time to time, you may not stop to think at all. Tip 2: Plan. Choose key moments for critical reflection, e.g. at the start of a project – ‘What are we here to do?’; mid-way through – ‘How are we doing?’; afterwards – ‘What are we learning?’ Tip 3: Provoke. Seek out stimulating literature; work with contrasting cultures; invite people to test your assumptions. Tip 4: Practise. Reflective practice takes…erm…practice. Pause, reflect act. Act pause reflect.
Nick is a freelance coach, trainer and OD consultant specialising in reflective practice.