Personal Reflection

Why do we need to put some time into personal reflection? Because without some understanding of who we are, our needs, and motivations it is difficult to understand the motivations of others. Reflection is one method that can help us gain a better understanding about who we are and our perceptions of the world around us. It is also the most difficult to do. Why? Because you must commit time and effort to the task without any predetermined course and you may realize things about yourself that you may not want to know. What also makes it difficult is the fact that all reflection is based on memories, that are based on perception, that is based on our senses reflected through our internal filters to become memories of experiences. To gain clarity of reflection is a process of considerable work but well worth the effort. A discussion of this is available here.

We will use reflection to further our understanding of ourselves. Dewey defined reflective thought as 'active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends' (Dewey 1933: 118). Research by Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985) give us the following aspects of reflection:

Returning to experience - that is to say recalling or detailing salient events.
Attending to (or connecting with) feelings - this has two aspects: using helpful feelings and removing or containing obstructive ones.
Evaluating experience - this involves re-examining experience in the light of one's intent and existing knowledge etc. It also involves integrating this new knowledge into one's conceptual framework. (Boud, 26-31)

Going a bit further we can state that without reflection, one may never come to a true understanding of their basic needs, core beliefs, their personal vision, professional vision, and the interrelationships and interdependencies between them. Reflection is the key to a better self, a more productive member of society, to enhancing your relationships, finding the meaning of life, understanding others, finding and setting goals and vision, finding a physical and mental well being, provide a path to the inner self, a path to understanding of Faith and its relationship to the inner and outer world, a path to knowledge, better problem solving, creativity, life long learning, a path to loving life and everything about life.

Without an understanding of ourselves it becomes nearly impossible to become something more.  

Here is a link to some good papers about reflection on leadership, at and 
here is a paper Insert Bruces PDF

Now on to the exercises.

Personal Reflection Exercise

You will need to find a location that encourages thinking and have close at hand a journal or something to take notes with.

Reflection using all senses. What did you see, feel, taste, smell, hear, and what emotions did you experience. What didn't you see, fell, taste, smell, hear, or what emotions weren't present.
What are your personal needs? 
What vision motivates you? Why? 
What events led you to that vision?
Consider relationship between yourself, family, friends, work, future, and 
How do you feel about change?
To challenge the world view, you must first challenge your own view. What does this mean to you? Support with examples and reasons? 
Now question your opinions, beliefs, and assumptions. 
What can you do better, what actions or learning can you take to make positive changes? 
What obstacles or barriers do you face?
What would you do if you had no fear of failure?

Extended Exercises 

Extended Exercise 1 - Reflect on why you are reading this. Brainstorm, process, think, use all senses, all reasons, all actions, and emotions.

There is no right or wrong way to reflect. All of us have different methods to learning, remembering, and processing. Your method of reflection is dependent on your needs, your senses, your past, your inner self, your internal and external environment and environmental needs, and your motivation.   

Extended Exercise 2 Take action and then reflect on the memories of that action. What were the relationships to the internal, external thoughts and actions, what actions did it cause in others? What actions would be taken in the future given your reflection? What similarities does it have?

Extended Exercise 3 Experiment with different situations, different approaches to thinking, different senses and memories, process it different ways.

Extended Exercise 4 - Read books that provide new knowledge, new ways to look at old knowledge, encourage reflection and critical thinking. Go to a book store and browse the shelves until you find something that interests you. The self help section, behavioral studies, psychology, creativity, art, etc. 

Extended Exercise 5 - Communicate and collaborate with other people about their perceptions, ideas, knowledge, and finally discuss your reflections. Join or start a class online, a list server, or a thread on your favorite   

Links and Research 

Reflection on Leadership Journal

Boud, D. Reflection. Turning experience into learning, London: Kogan Page. (1985) 170 pages.