Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On Reflection

Being able to reflect or even be reflexive is frequently mentioned in the vast literature on leadership. It appears as a useful skill in order to improve leadership performance and one’s development as a leader. There is something tantalisingly sensible about this idea. However, my educated guess is that not many people plan time for reflection in the course of their busy day, let alone do it effectively. Most people I know are too frenetic to even think about thinking about thinking-if you get my drift.

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed in a lifetime of studying humans is that the thing that is making us unhappy is often the thing also getting in the way of improving or doing something about our situation.

So, in this instance, when chronic busyness and maybe even stress is interfering with our ability to function effectively, maybe even be happy, the cause gets in the way of doing what we need to do most-take time out. Maybe to reflect.

Neuroscience suggests that reflection is a key component to learning. It seems that after information is received as a result of experience we reflect on it in our brain’s temporal lobe before taking it to the next level. It seems that this is critical to memory and, obviously, memory is essential for learning. Our brain does this automatically for us, out of our awareness.  There is more to learning of course, such as the release of chemicals that reward us, using the information, context and a range of other factors.

Often, in my work as a psychologist I’m talking to the unconscious mind, trying to develop understanding that will create change that will be completely out of awareness for the person until maybe later. But there is nothing more satisfying when I’m working with clients and they have that sudden rush of realisation, that ‘Hah, Hah’ moment: sudden conscious awareness. I’ve had this experience myself when I’ve had a sudden insight and it can be exhilarating, as is the behaviour change that follows.

The ability to spend reflection time every day is something we should teach in school as a life skill. And it’s something that should be inbuilt into leadership DNA. It’s that ability to relax a little, thing through what’s happened, consider the appropriateness or not of our behaviour, how we might have done things differently, how we have affected people and how we have affected ourselves.

It’s what our brains do automatically. But how wonderful would it be to be able to take control of some of this, enhance the ability and to continuously learn rather than doing the same damn thing over and over again.

Reflection. Something to reflect upon.