The impact of reflection: “My life is more fun and I make the most of every day.”

Michele Ernsting
Article by: Michele Ernsting
The impact of reflection: “My life is more fun and I make the most of every day.”

The closing of the year is designed for reflection. THNK facilitator Miranda Berkhof believes reflection is the best tool for leadership development. “If you raise your awareness, you have more choices. If you have more choices on how you show up and interact with people, it allows you to make the most of your life.”

The practice of reflection involves contemplating your feelings, thoughts, actions, and needs without judgment. It requires honesty to learn from what worked, what didn’t, and more importantly: why? “Why” helps you to pinpoint what you could do differently going forward. Reflection takes courage. It is the basis of self-awareness, the foundation upon which other leadership practices are developed.

We sat down with Miranda to discuss her reflection practice and the impact it has had on her life and work.

How can people create their own practice of reflection?

“You can build a rhythm of reflection based around a range of questions. You can look back at  the past and ask, what did I learn from this year? You can reflect forward, what does success look like in the coming year? You can also reflect on the now, what do I feel and what do I need in this moment?. Very often questions will rise to the surface on their own, but in the middle of a busy day, we often suppress or overlook them. The trick is to listen, to listen to your gut – not always to your busy mind.”

What moments are most effective for reflection?

“Set aside time and put it in your calendar. I started with a yearly reflection which established an annual rhythm. At my work, we had roadmaps of three months. Every quarter we had a reflection moment with the team looking forward and backwards. This included questions like “Where are we now? Are we happy with this direction?

That was a helpful new rhythm, but a quarter is a long time, so I decided to increase the frequency. I thought of questions I could ask myself each week to increase my impact. For example: What was going to matter most in the week ahead? What should I make time for?

Now I start every morning with a question about my intention for the day. What’s the experience I want to have today? And what do I want others to experience when they interact with me?

I kept adding new frequencies to my rhythm of reflection. As I did that, new questions arose. That’s how you move from being unconsciously incapable to consciously incapable and then over time, to consciously capable and finally, unconsciously capable.”

Do you sit with the question and see what comes up or do you actively think this question through?

“I actively think things through. When I started with my reflection rhythm, the annual check-in was on my birthday. I took a full day to reflect on the past year, and what I wanted to happen in the next year. I designed the day to include things that were fun, active, and reflective, such as having a conversation with someone who is meaningful to me. An annual reflection can take a day or longer, but a daily reflection can be just five minutes while you’re brushing your teeth. The time it takes is usually connected to the period you are reflecting on, or another way of saying this is the frequency of reflection.”

What impact has this practice had on your life?

“My life is much more fun! That’s because it’s more intentional. There are more milestones to mark. This practice has also given me a lot of confidence and security. I will check in with myself to ask: How am I doing? How am I feeling? It gives me a sense of safety in that I can reflect and make different choices in the moment and the moments to come. With this practice, and a rhythm for reflection, I make the most of each day of my life.”