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Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Art of Reflection

2020 has been a challenging year in so many aspects; people have lost their jobs or graduated into a scarce job market, others have been separated from or lost loved ones, and many have struggled with increased mental health challenges due to months of lockdown.

The circumstances that we are in, and the personal and professional decisions that we’ve had to make, have undoubtedly changed our outlook on work, life and relationships. Many people are feeling a stronger sense of purpose and resilience after making it through the unexpected and unnerving months of lockdown, as well as empathy towards those who have experienced struggles during the pandemic. Some have felt increased gratitude for family, friends and colleagues who have supported them, their working situation, and their physical and mental health.

Although no one should feel under pressure to embark on complex self-improvement projects or huge life changes during this time, people can emerge from adversity having achieved positive personal growth. The pandemic has given us all an opportunity to focus on what we can control, and as we’re increasingly aware of the uncertainty of the future, people may feel a sense of perspective, motivating them to take more risks in the future, doing more to benefit ourselves and those around us. Waiting for a ‘better time’ is no longer an excuse, which helps many feel empowered and stronger. Erika Felix, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara explained,

“We might be making more time for things we find meaningful, simplifying our lives and making time for being connected in our relationships.”

At HappyMaven, we believe that reflection is a powerful tool for analysis, improvement and realisation. Here, we offer some ideas for personal reflection, how to develop gratitude from reflections and how it can be applied within the workplace for more meaningful results. 


The Art of Reflection

One of the key tools for making positive changes after a challenging time is the art of reflection. We reflect naturally in our day-to-day lives, but building a practice around the act of reflecting can make people aware of both the skills they’ve developed and the ones that might need refining. Reflection also provides people with an opportunity to share their accomplishments and challenges, establishing new goals to work towards and engaging with others to share opinions. In Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick write,

“Reflection has many facets. For example, reflecting on work enhances its meaning. Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning. We foster our own growth when we control our learning, so some reflection is best done alone. Reflection is also enhanced, however, when we ponder our learning with others.”

Reflecting can be as simple as asking yourself a few questions, such as:

What went wrong?
What did I do well?
What did I learn from this?

Asking ourselves what our strengths and weaknesses are, what problems we face, and what makes us happy and unhappy, can help us to think logically about what might have been an emotional experience. 

Reflection can also enhance appreciation for the small things that make life worth living. Practising gratitude through reflection helps people feel more grounded and peaceful, and improves the ability to share that love with others by giving back. This, in turn, can improve physical and mental health, sleep, and self-esteem. Gratitude exercises can include journaling, interacting with nature, writing letters to loved ones, and the ‘What-Went-Well’ exercise, which involves writing down three things that have gone well each day and asking ‘Why did this happen?’.

By using these kinds of practices to reflect on 2020, challenging circumstances can provide us with positive learnings and the ability to feel more confident in our actions and compassionate towards others. Taking positive lessons from challenges points out things we might not know, deepening our knowledge of the skills we have, our values, and our blind spots. It also wakes us up to our authentic selves, showing us how and where to create more balance and when to slow down.

Discover a collection of diverse gratitude practices here provided by experts from around the world demonstrating how gratitude is important for recovery, success and mental health.


Reflection in the Workplace

Practising reflection in the workplace requires business leaders and managers to coach their teams on how and why they should reflect on 2020, assisting them through the process. Most managers require training on coaching others, as many believe that simply telling your team what to do constitutes effective coaching. In reality, coaching people through self-reflection requires listening, showing empathy, questioning, and recommending reflection techniques like journaling or the What Went Well exercise to let the employee arrive at their own solution.

When guiding others on reflection, managers need to be aware of each individual’s strengths and what they bring to the team, as well as being emotionally intelligent enough to empathise with others’ viewpoints. Good coaches have to overcome the desire to be directive and ask open-ended, guiding questions that not only develop productive and thoughtful conversations but also inform leaders on their employees' attitudes towards work. By listening and empowering employees, and committing to continuous coaching throughout their career, managers can build a much more talented and agile workforce, leading to a growing business with a supportive and open company culture. 


Businesses that are in the position to invest in development, coaching and reflection efforts will be rewarded as a team, however the satisfaction in their successes might be undermined by the fact that so many other businesses are suffering. Organisations and business leaders can channel these feelings of guilt as inspiration to give back and help others, both inside and outside of their business, wherever possible. Transforming this guilt into gratitude allows leaders to make the best decisions possible, behave with compassion and concern, and steer their team and industry toward brighter days.

We at HappyMaven are unwavering in our gratitude to our clients, collaborators and friends for supporting us throughout this year and continuing to inspire us with ever-ingenious ways of pivoting from places of darkness into light.

For more insights into coaching your teams through these unpredictable times, arrange a free 30-minute consultation with us here. We wish you a very happy festive season and a healthy and prosperous 2021.

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