This week we explored 3 tools that can be helpful guides for focused Reflection.
Unlike general reflective practice, focused reflection directs our attention towards a specific time frame, mindset, topic or event.
When we direct our thoughts in such a specific way, we are often able to find patterns and achieve ‘aha’ moments that otherwise might elude us.
Because our attention is focused, results are likely to occur faster than when we follow a more organic approach to reflection. But make no mistake. Organic, more free-form reflection can, and is, quite valuable, especially when we want to explore the depths of our emotions, life or soul.
But sometimes we have neither the time nor the energy to do this with limitless parameters, and THIS is where focused reflection can be beneficial; to help us resolve or better understand a problem or concern. To help us discover patterns in our behavior or thinking.
Equipped with this knowledge, we can design or tweak our actions as we plan or progress with a change.
This week's tools.
The Timelines, Accept/Reject and View Finder Perceptions Model™ are all helpful guides for focused reflection. But what if we want to go deeper?
Here is one more tool to utilize to help us get to the core of any questions to which the answers have been elusive.
It’s called the 5 Whys*. Created by Sakichi Toyoda, this tool is extremely simple to use and highly effective as long as we are completely open and honest with our answers.
It also requires perseverance, because by the time we’ve completed two or three whys, we typically want to chuck it out the door and go to our happy place.
It becomes uncomfortable to continue, and so we start searching for any reason we can to call it quits. But sticking with it can uncover a world of new learning about our true drivers, beliefs and perceptions.
Although the name of this exercise is the 5 Whys, sometimes we might need to go beyond that number. As I advise my clients, we will know when we’ve gotten the answer. If the exercise falls flat, it’s because we haven’t gone far enough. Keep going until a shift has occurred.
The 5 whys and how it works.
Let’s use the example of completing one of the exercises from this week. As you are completing one of them, we think to ourselves, “I really hate doing these things! They’re stupid!”
This is a good example of a belief that would be helpful to explore further. In this example, we would ask ourselves “why do I hate doing this sort of exercise?” or, perhaps in a separate 5 Whys exercise ask “why do I think exercises like this are stupid?”
Keep going, and going. and going, and going, and going until arriving at the core of the issue.
In our example, our responses might look something like this:
Can you see how a shift in the responses is beginning to occur?
In this example I would say that 5 whys isn’t enough. It seems like we’re just starting to get to the good stuff, and it is likely the point by which it would be tempting to stop. And, in fact, I am going to stop here for the sake of space, and also to create a little intrigue which will hopefully tempt you to try this exercise yourself.
This is a wonderful tool to use when we’re pretty sure we’re in denial or avoiding something (or someone), or when issues we thought were resolved but clearly aren’t because they keep popping up.
Wrapping up reflection.
To conclude this week’s theme on reflection, looking to our past, especially the whys behind our actions or decisions, can help us be more mindful of our actions and decisions moving forward.
Sometimes we’d like history to repeat itself, and focusing our reflections on those occasions in our past that we enjoyed, can offer us clues on how to create similar conditions moving forward.
The same goes for aspects of our past we’d like to leave behind us. As the philosopher George Santanaya said, "those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
By revisiting our past, we can be more intentional in our future, resulting in a much greater potential for creating experiences we want, rather than reliving those we don't. But, as always, the choice is up to us. Reflect or not to reflect; which do you choose?
A note about next week and upcoming themes.
I realize I had suggested in my last post that today we would wrap-up this week’s theme on Reflection by discussing how to put what we’ve learned through our focused reflections into a viable change plan, but I believe there is one other theme to explore before doing that; exploring ways to create a change mindset. This theme will be investigated over the next two-weeks.
While I usually post every week-day, my family is undergoing multiple changes of our own, all of which converge over the next 5 days.
With that in mind, I have decided to spread our next theme out in order to allow myself the necessary space to be intentional with my own transition, and to help others in my family with theirs as well.
But rest assured, more is on its way. Here’s what I have in mind over the coming weeks:
Thank you for reading, and I wish you a truly excellent weekend!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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