”Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success and freedom.” —Unknown

The Art of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is a key component in our ability to improve ourselves along with situations or processes. The key emphasis is on bettering yourself. By self-reflecting, I am not trying to make someone else become more in line with my mode of thinking, but it is about looking at my actions and thoughts to see how I could have handled a situation better or differently in order to change the outcome, or drive myself to think about something in a different way. If you read a previous article that I wrote, I talk about how have I failed to make my expectations understood. This is self-reflection. When you bring the analysis of a situation back onto yourself, you are targeting bettering yourself in how you handle situations, and not trying to change others.

There are so many outside influences that will affect a particular situation that sometimes it is difficult to be able to do the analysis on how you handled it instead of how the whole event played out.

A Quick Story

I do a lot of skateboarding for exercise. I use a land paddle that is a lot like paddle boarding, where I just stand on the board and paddle. The other day I was riding down a path and actually broke my skateboard. For those of you who have been exposed to skateboarding, you will know that there are two basic types of cruising boards. One is lower to the ground then the other. On the low one, the trucks (the mechanism that attaches the wheels to the board) come through the board from the bottom and actually attach directly to the top of the board. This means that you will have to make a hole in the front of the board and also in the rear, for the trucks to fit through. This lowers the board by up to a couple of inches. We will not get into the whole why ride a lower skateboard, except to say that I am a believer that the less distance I have to fall, the less likely I will be to damage myself. The higher board, has the trucks attached to the bottom of the board, thus no holes in the board that the trucks have to go through. This also means that on the high board, you have no weakened spots in the board that cutting holes in the board for the trucks creates.

On this particular day I was cruising down a walking/bike path that was pretty smooth, albeit, it did have cracks running across the pavement about every 15’. These cracks are usually not a problem unless they get big enough to swallow a wheel, which they did. When riding a skateboard and approaching an immovable obstacle like a crack, you will try to cross the crack at an angle, so that your wheels will go across the obstacle one at a time instead of two together. I saw the large crack, over 2” across, and angled my board to roll across it (which I had successfully done previously), but this time there was also a little jog in the crack which I did not take into consideration. My front wheels made it over the crack OK, but my back wheels, did not take the lead of the front wheels, submerged into the crack and the board broke, right at the point of where my rear trucks go through the board. I wasn’t even going that fast, and thankfully, not fast enough that it put me on my butt.

Self-Reflection and The Art of Skateboard Riding

At a moment like this, and it could be any situation at all in which you can look back and evaluate your performance in something, how do you think of the situation. Here are some potential pathways:

·     Oh my God, I pay my taxes to have these paths to exercise on and the city can’t even keep them in good repair

·     My board had weak spots, I always knew something like this would have happened

·     My board is 8 years old, this was bound to happen soon

·     If I went over the crack faster, it may not have swallowed my wheels

·     If I had not gone over the crack at all, I would not have broken my board

Of these 5 examples, 3 blame something else, the city should have done it, the board was not designed well, the age of the board, but 2 of these examples are true examples of SELF-REFLECTION, where I look at what I could have done differently in order to change the situation.

Self-Reflection In the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Process

The PDCA process is a process for continuous improvement. Briefly, we Plan what we want to do to solve a problem or situation that you want to improve. We Do or execute the action items that we hope will solve the problem or improve the situation. We Check, to see if we had the desired results, and finally we Act by creating a new standard for those things that worked, and potentially go through the PDCA cycle again to drive further improvement.

In the Check phase of the PDCA process we want to be able to look back and see if what we did had the desired impact. I see many occurrences in Problem Solving where we put in a solution to what we think will solve the problem, but in actuality it only masks the problem for a short time, and then the problem reoccurs, because we did not do the Check and Act portion. When we look back we want to be able to honestly reflect on the situation, both in terms of the what actually occurred, but also, how we did we handle the Plan and Do parts of the process. We want to make sure that we capture what went well and what did not go so well, many companies will call this an after action review. This is all around creating a learning organization, and a big part of the learning is to be able to look at ourselves and how we handled the process.

Be Humble

And finally, I believe that being humble is what gives us the true ability to self-reflect. Being humble means that you are not boastful or arrogant and that you do not put yourself at a higher position than anyone else. By being humble, you can truly be able to look back on a situation and self-reflect to see how you may have handled it differently in order to help yourself better understand the situation for the next time.

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