Self-reflection: Leading by taking time to know ourselves

Self-reflection is a skill that we can cultivate and apply to our everyday lives so that we can learn from our experiences and be the best version of ourselves.

Taking time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings and experiences can help you become more self-aware, while making new sense of situations, which you encounter in from day-to-day. Critical self-reflection is an overarching set of skills that includes observation, questioning and identifying themes for moving forward. While engaging in intentional reflection, you can find the “silver lining” in lessons learned, while growing as an individual. Take a moment to imagine you are at the gym to exercise. Every so often, you pause your workout to get a drink of water. What happens if you don’t stop to rehydrate? Usually with dehydration, comes reduced performance. Michigan State University Extension suggests thinking of daily self-reflection as that water-break during your day-to-day life. It rejuvenates you, helps you take away lessons to be a better version of yourself, and perform at your best everyday.

Remember, you are unique, which means your experience, perspective and best modes of reflection are also unique. Some ways to reflect include writing in a journal, drawing, spoken word poetry, choreographing a dance or developing a music playlist. Whatever mode of reflection you choose, remember there is no right or wrong way, answer or result. Ideally, you will ask some questions of yourself regarding an experience and as a result feel positive about the take-away that you discovered.

Here are some examples by MSU Extension of questions to get you started:

  • How am I feeling about that experience/situation?
    • This is a great question to utilize the emotions wheel. Sometimes we have difficulty identifying and expressing the actual way we are feeling. Remember that “fine” is not an emotion. Try to recognize and take ownership over the emotion you are feeling.
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What were my expectations?
  • Did my experience match my expectations?
    • Why or why not?
  • What parts of the experience did I have control over?
  • If I could describe this experience in one to three words, what would those words be?
  • How did other people present for/active in this experience feel?
    • Were their feelings similar to mine?
  • What actions could I or others have taken to improve this experience?
  • Should I debrief with others to improve this experience in the future?
  • What have I learned from this experience that:
    • …has made me a better person, professional, friend, etc.?
    • …can be applied to future experience to make them better, more positive or successful?

Reflection is a valuable process that can help us grow personally and professionally everyday. It helps us think about the way we feel in a specific time, space, and place which can help us identify the ways we may be impacting our surrounding environment, groups or outcomes. Reflection is a simple tool that you can incorporate into your daily life, and the only input it requires is a little time and intentionality.

This topic is just one of many that is being offered in a session at this year’s Michigan 4-H Youth Leadership and Global Citizenship Spectacular. For more information on the 4-H Spectacular or other Michigan State University Extension programs like it, visit the 4-H Leadership & Citizenship website.

Did you find this article useful?