Reflection is defined as serious thought or consideration.
As always everything for me leads to awareness and I will continue to repeat the following over and over again:
The more aware one is, the greater clarity they are likely to have and the more informed they are to make decisions.
Reflection is another vehicle to awareness and in this post I’ll talk about the practical things I do to help me make decisions, reflect and learn.
From the moment you wake up you are faced with some kind of choice and whatever is decided shapes your day and daily choices ultimately determine the life you live.
When there are a lot of choices, I feel that there is a significant decision to make or I know there’s an upcoming deadline I can feel overwhelmed and I don’t like it. So I have learned what works best for me in terms of decision making and maybe one of these things can work for you too.
When overwhelmed I find that physically seeing what’s in front of me by getting it down on paper (well… my notes app on my phone, so technically on screen) is a very helpful first step. It’s now out of what feels like a disorganised mind and clearly laid out which reduces some chaos. Another benefit of writing it down is because the day can get busy, things crop up that need doing and if I don’t write it down I’ll likely forget, so it acts as a useful reminder.
I then rank the list in order of importance but there’s some flexibility here, although they are ordered it depends on how I feel because I don’t always complete the tasks in that way. At times, it makes more sense for me to group them together depending on where I’ll be in the day. If I feel like I wanna build momentum I may start off with an easier ‘to-do’ and once that’s been ticked off or deleted from the list that sense of achievement helps to reinforce my next task completion.
And a lot of the time I have deadlines so that naturally directs what will need doing first but as I said I’ve become more flexible with life because the added stress of sticking to a rigid plan isn’t it. My approach is, if it’s on the list it will get done by the time it needs to get done.
At the end of the day I think about what I have achieved and say something along the lines of, ‘so I did x,y,z’ by referring to my to-do list. This allows me to reflect on my day and praise myself for the small wins.
Pros and Cons List
For as long as I can remember, every time I’ve been required to make a big decision I’ve written a pros and cons list which is the good things or bad things about the choices I’ll make.
It really helps me weigh up my decisions, this is especially when I don’t feel clear on what to do. Lists help me feel organised and in order for me to think about what a pro or a con is about said thing, it firstly requires some thought i.e. reflection.
The written list is another visual and sometimes it’s as easy as seeing the amount of reasons in each column, if one is visibly longer than the other it kind of tells me what I should do.
Saying that, I have to be careful because sometimes I know my answer and just want confirmation by working through the pros and cons but that means I may bias my answers and favor what I subconsciously want. With that in mind, I try my best to have an equal amount of reasons for both the pros and cons and if I’m really stuck I’ll ask those closest to me for advice.
I know whatever it is, it was the best choice for me in that moment and only until after the decision can I really reflect and see whether I would’ve stuck to that decision or changed it. That’s where the learning happens because irrespective of the outcome I’ve grown as a result of it.
It’s only until I began working in my current role did I realise how often I’ve adopted this approach and how valuable it has been.
- Identify the problem: make sure you are very clear on what the actual problem is
- Identify the solutions: think of as many ways to deal with the problem as you can
- Pros and cons of each solution: ask yourself is it doable? How can I achieve this? What barriers are going to get in the way? Who can support me with this?
- Choose a solution: refer to the pros and cons list as I explained earlier in the post
- Plan the solution: personally I don’t always do this step but this is thinking about what, where, when, who with and the steps needed to do the solution
- Do it: carry out the solution
- Reflect: how did it go? Did it go the way you expected, what did you learn, will you try another solution next time?
I’ve found this process so helpful and at each stage it requires me to think about the barrier I’m trying to overcome. It allows me to see that there is more than one way to solve my problem and I like that the process ends with reflection. The learning informs the next time I run into a similar issue and I feel better equipped to handle it.
Decision Making Overall
When I have a goal in mind I like to think about the steps needed to get there and the easiest way I’ve found is to work backwards. I’ve done this when deciding what degree I wanted to study at university, when I moved to Madrid and more recently when starting my job, it’s a bit similar to the above and it goes like this:
- Identify ultimate goal: try and get as specific as you can
- Ask yourself what steps you need to take in order to achieve it
- Consider all the routes to get there: including pros and cons of each
- Think about where you can get more information about it: Google is your friend, do you know someone in the sector or does anyone you know, know someone? LinkedIn is helpful too.
- Ask yourself if there is anything extra you can do right now: this is thinking about putting yourself in a better position to achieve your goal e.g. upskill, gain more experience, do a training course?
As you can see I’m definitely someone who likes to plan, weigh up the pros and cons and think things through quite thoroughly before I do them. At the same time, I can be spontaneous, it’s just the former is more natural for me. I know some people who don’t plan at all and are very spontaneous and that works for them. This is all about what you find the most useful.
Whatever it is I believe being flexible in your thinking is necessary and I often remind myself of the following:
Nothing happens by accident
Life may have a funny way of going about things. Despite all the planning and problem solving there are things we cannot control and it may not work out. I believe reflection puts things into perspective, it gives me confidence knowing that what I’m doing now in this moment is all a part of the bigger picture even if this one thing didn’t work out as I initially hoped it would.
Everything happens for a reason
Similarly, I like to think that everything that is meant for me will happen for me. Despite the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced, upon reflection I wouldn’t have changed a thing because it shaped me to be the Sabrina I am today. And that gives me a sense of peace because I feel things will work out as they should.
To wrap up, reflection is your friend and I hope these practical tips can be just as useful for you too 🙂