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“Being in my head is a scary place” the power of reflection

“Being in my head is a scary place” said a participant at a developmental programme. During workshops consciously using open space to encourage reflection, I observed the palpable power. This impact of this has encouraged me to think about my own response to reflection.

Instead of a lot of activities to create a sense of busyness, there is significant power in workshops that encourage (or force) participants to reflect. Rather than being distracted by tasks, participants are confronted with their thoughts and most importantly, their feelings. For example a simple group activity that lasted 20 minutes, generated 60 minutes of group discussion and fueled individual awareness that grew over several days. For some people this was the first time they had done anything like this, and the power of introspection was a shock. In a casual conversation, one person said that he avoided thinking about the big issues of self. It was too challenging and too difficult. He would fill his time to avoid thinking about himself, his thoughts, feelings and an awareness of why he acted as he did. With this openness he stated that the programme had help him understand and resolve a number of significant issues and was the most powerful developmental workshop he had ever experienced.

With this statement still ringing in my ears, during my drive home I thought about my openness to reflection and introspection; how often I consciously review my thoughts and feelings. I use regular co-coaching, but I then started to think of other opportunities to reflect that are presented by everyday activities.

sweeping leaves picture for blog

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year as the leaves on the trees change colour into rich reds and golds, contrasted against dramatic skies. This is the time to sweep up the fallen leaves as the days shorten. In previous years I would sweep the leaves from my garden, resenting the time I had wasted on this thankless task. The next morning, I would breathe a weary sigh as there is a new covering of leaves that had fallen overnight and once again the garden was messy.

But this year something has changed in the way I view this task. It no longer feels like a chore. This is not stolen time, but it has actually given me something I had not considered in previous years; a time to think. As I sweep the leaves I focus on me, what has happened today, what I learned, how I’m feeling and why. This is time to step away from the rush that is around me. I feel a calmness as the broom travels across the grass gathering the damp leaves in front of it. As I do this, I experience a new pleasure as collecting the leaves is more than the task of making the garden look tidy, but also about a process.

But what has changed? The leaves are the same, the broom is a year older but otherwise as it was. The only thing that has changed is my outlook towards this task. My reflection is no longer confined to activities such as co-coaching sessions, but everyday tasks provide opportunities to take time out for introspection. By seeing the impact of reflection on the developmental programme participants, I have been reminded of the wondrous power. A simple job is now not a task to be completed as fast as possible to get it out of the way. This has given me something that I value, time to think and be at peace. This is something to savour and appreciate.

How often do we focus only on the task, and ignore the process we have gone through? Do we rush to complete a task, to tick it off the list, and ignore what the journey and process has taught us? Is reflection only confined to specific activities such as co-coaching?

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