The first time I heard the term “self-reflection,” I was working on my second graduate degree, a master’s in education and was required to keep a self-reflective journal. My professors believed that “reflective practices made better teachers.”
At the time, I had no idea what a self-reflective journal or reflective practices were. I later realized that self-reflection was something that I did naturally, but making a conscious effort to do it deepened my practice.
Self-reflection can easily become a daily part of your life at any age. It involves giving careful thought to your beliefs and goals, and then evaluating your actions so that you can meet these goals. Engaging in self-reflection on a consistent basis can help you move from being good to being great at just about anything, including school.
So, how can you begin to incorporate self-reflection into your life?
1. Pick an area for review
When I first started consciously using reflective practice, I was trying to become a better teacher. However, you can also reflect on your skill in a sport, your progress in a school subject, your comfort as a public speaker – whatever area of your life that you hope to improve.
2. Keep a reflective journal
A reflective journal is for your thoughts, feelings, and realizations. The journal that I kept in graduate school was centered on my experiences as a student teacher. Occasionally, I was given a question to reflect upon and answer, but I often wrote about what did and did not go well with a lesson that I had developed and presented. A journal helps make self-reflection a habit. The act of writing can also help you clarify your thoughts.
3. Observe yourself
To reflect on what you are doing, you need to know what you are doing. You can carefully think about your actions or you can ask for feedback from others.
Next, evaluate what you have seen in yourself. Do you always sit in the back of the classroom and find that you are easily distracted? Do you generally hit fastballs but rarely curveballs? Do you do well on multiple-choice questions and then panic when asked to write an essay? What are you doing well? What are your weaknesses? Look for patterns in your behavior that you can further evaluate.
4. Set a goal
Once you know what you wish to change, set a goal. You may want to become a better writer or improve your backhand. If you set specific, measurable goals, you will be more likely to succeed. For instance, how will you know that you have achieved your writing goal? Will you write for 10 minutes each evening for two weeks? Will you publish a poem?
5. Make a change
Maybe you need to practice more often, for longer, or in a different way. Maybe you need to ask your teacher for extra help outside of class. Maybe you need to ask your coach to help you develop a new routine.
6. Re-evaluate your actions
Once you have implemented your changes, evaluate yourself again. Are you continuing to do things the new way, or are you slipping back to your old habits? Is the change effective? Are you improving? You want to ensure that you are progressing.
Self-reflection is an ongoing cycle of observing your actions and thoughts, evaluating them and making changes to improve yourself. When you make this a daily habit, you will likely find that you are improving various aspects of yourself and your life, whether it is your ability to excel at school, a sport or a hobby.