Reflection as a constructive habit: What did I see and what did I hear?

In today’s blog I’d like to build on how I use the practice of reflection to maintain a grounded perspective on situations and my reactions to them.

As mentioned in the initial piece, I was introduced to this structured approach to reflection in 2014 during a development program with the AIPM in Manly, Australia and to whom I am eternally grateful.

The technique is taught to all Senior Sergeants / Inspector grades from the Australian & NZ emergency services and developed further as officers progress through their continual professional development (CPD).

At its most basic it allows you to review how situations played out, which most of us are familiar with, in the form of ‘debriefs’.

Where this approach goes much further is that it forces you to acknowledge how you actions and behaviour directly impacted on the outcome and to recognise opportunities to achieve better results through better decisions.

From a strategic management perspective this is laudable as it means we are potentially operating far more efficiently but when applied to the personal and leadership space the technique really comes into its own, but more on that in subsequent blogs.

So how does this work and why should you be interested?

This technique is really simple, doesn’t require any sophisticated equipment and has the potential to completely transform your life!

Big statement but it’s true.

Elements of this approach are founded in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and enable you to identify when your patterns of thinking and behaviour are subject to bias or assumption. This significantly impacts all of our decision making processes, and applies as readily in our domestic and professional lives.

Think about a situation where you got frustrated because you believe that someone else ‘should’ or ‘must’ behave in a way that was different from your expectations?

The harsh reality is that they were most likely completely oblivious to your expectations and as you hadn’t told them and we haven’t got functional telepathy chips implanted yet, they’re never going to be able to change and you’ll always continue to be frustrated, which will further impact on your mood, behaviour and environment.

So where do we start?

Simply find something to write with, think about a particular situation and jot down everything you can think about what happened and why it’s got your attention.

That’s it – simple. Don’t try to structure it or analyse anything, just dump everything down on the page.

You can use nice notebooks & pens, your laptop or devices, work quietly on your own or do this when commuting (or during dull sections of meetings).

Some of my most impactive reflections have been scribbled on Post it notes, so it’s not the medium that’s important, rather the fact that you’ve captured your raw appraisal of a situation or event.

So what now?

If a situation has stirred up difficult emotions, I’ll quite often leave things for a while and return to it when I know my thinking isn’t subject to too many stress hormones.

What I do now is apply the question in the title of this blog “What did you see and What did you hear?”.

Hopefully in doing my ‘mind dump’ I’ll have captured text and comments that occurred during the event in question, but what I am looking for here isn’t necessarily the content but how I’ve interpreted the events and whether there are indicators of why I’ve applied these particular lenses and judgements.

I’m not looking for validation or contradictions at this point, simply looking for patterns or anomalies that make me want to dig a bit deeper to understand whether what I perceived to have occurred was actually what happened?

Right that’s enough for now. Have a go, think about something that’s happened over the Christmas period and just capture your perceptions of the event.

Then ask yourself “ok, so what did I see and what did I actually hear?”

Jot your findings down too and see if these questions that you want to examine further.

I’ll introduce to the next stage in the next episode, but until then Happy New Year