Reflection as a constructive habit: Getting on the balcony

In this edition I want to build on what we’ve covered in Part 2 – What did I see and What did I hear?

When we finished up last week, I’d introduced you to the practice of simply capturing everything that popped up in your mind in relation to a particular situation and hopefully you might have started to see a few things that made you want to look a bit closer.

In this edition we’ll look at the next step, that in the AIPM, they call ‘Getting on the balcony’.

The purpose of this stage, from a professional position, is to help you regularly look at situations from a far greater strategic perspective, which, in turn, helps you make far better decisions.

At a personal level, this also really helps you develop self awareness and emotional intelligence (EQ) and I’ll cover this in more detail in a later blog.

The way the AIPM help visualise this stage is to imagine being on a busy dance floor in a noisy nightclub.

You can see the people immediately around you, you can see the person you’re dancing with, you can hear the music but that’s just about it. This is how most of us go through life, as we tend to focus on our immediate environment as we rush around from one event to the next.

If you imagine that now you’re looking down on this same dance floor from ‘the balcony’: we can now see who’s on the dance floor, who’s at the bar, who’s dancing, how they’re dancing, who’s dancing with who and who else is up on the balcony. You can also hear the music clearly and most likely what others on the balcony are talking about.

So when you now consider ‘What did I see and What did I hear?’ you’re now able to make your observations and decisions with far greater information.

So more strategic and more self aware, which is a massive Win / Win.

To try and show this in action, I’ve gone back over a situation that occurred last week which helps so how I do this in practice.

During the holidays I had planned to work through some technical reading and critical thinking at home that I’ve been avoiding for a couple of weeks. I had all my materials, I knew what had to be done and what success would look like and surprise, surprise it didn’t get done and I ended up getting annoyed at myself, feelinga sense of shame and failure and generally getting stressed about the whole situation.

So first up, I dug out my Reflection Journal and ‘mind dumped’ whatever popped into my head about the holiday period.

Next I asked myself ‘Ok what do you see / hear?’

Now remember, this isn’t analysis, it’s just looking for something that jumps out and makes you want to look closer, as this might identify the issue that’s causing the ‘itch’.

This quickly showed that not getting my work done was playing on me and that I was getting frustrated at myself, as I believed that I ‘should’ have done better, especially as I’d used some of my available time to start this blog!

‘Should’ is always a major CBT trigger, so as soon as I see myself thinking this way I always ‘get on the balcony’ and see if my thinking is valid and whether there are other factors in play, that I’m not considering.

So it was no surprise to find that the balcony view highlighted the following: I’d been working flat out for the previous 6 weeks on high pressure work, I wasn’t prepared for Christmas, we were hosting a family dinner on Christmas Day, we had family staying over, I hadn’t been going to the gym as regularly as normal, my son was off school and excited to have me at home to play with, as soon as I took my foot off the gas and went into holiday mode I caught the ‘lurgy’ and we were also hosting our annual Hogmanay party!

Once I’d looked again at my perceived ‘failure’ with this informed ‘balcony view’ I rapidly realised that my initial planning and expectations were completely unrealistic but as the work wasn’t time critical it wasn’t as bad a situation as I’d imagined.

It also highlighted that if I’d got on the balcony earlier I would have been far more realistic about what I hoped to achieve, which I think is something all of us can benefit from.

This showed me that the task was unrealistic given the circumstances, but that I also wasn’t being fair on myself and was creating an unnecessarily stressful situation that could easily have been avoided.

This enabled me to choose how I decide to respond to the event, which is the crux of CBT, where through being self aware of how you are reacting to a situation, you can change the outcome and your response.

This can significantly de-stress your environment and enable you to operate with clarity and consideration, as opposed to being constantly reactive and stressed out, which ultimately makes us better people, friends, parents and leaders.

Not the worlds most taxing or strategic crisis, but I want to show how the approach can be used on something simple, as well as complex work related issues.

So to recap, based on what we’ve covered so far you should now be able to capture your thoughts on a particular situation.

You should be able to ask yourself ‘what did I see / hear?’ to pick out areas to consider further and then be able to ‘ Get on the balcony’ and then ask yourself ‘what do I hear see now?’

If you are able to do this, you’ll find yourself not only making far better decisions but you’ll be looking at situations from a far greater strategic view point.

You’ll also be far more self aware and well on your way to developing your EQ levels, which is essential if you want to become an authentic leader.

In the next edition I’ll introduce you to the next level in the reflection work which builds on this self awareness as we will look at your understanding of your new balcony view as it forces you to ask the question ‘Ok, so what’s my part in the mess?’

But that’s for later. If this has been useful let me know, as feedback is essential to developing the style and feel of this blog and I want to ensure I’m delivering something that is of use to others.

Get on the balcony and start looking at things differently. You might just be surprised by what you see!