We all think back over our experiences when they’ve finished and casually think about what happened, the things we said, and the things that others said. However, so often it is the negative experiences that we mull over the most.
When I first noticed this whilst doing a group reflection recently, it really struck home. When I had a negative experience, like a failed project or a terrible presentation, I found myself reflecting for hours (often automatically, I believe this is called anxiety) about what went wrong and what I could do better next time. However, when I had a really great experience, I hardly thought about it at all, I just enjoyed the moment.
The more I think about it, the less that makes sense. Life shouldn’t be just about preventing the bad things from happening, it makes just as much sense (if not more) to analyse the positive experiences and to try to keep making them happen.
Based on these thoughts, I have done a little bit of research. In the following article, I will briefly discuss what reflective practice is and its benefits, as well as an interesting study by Fred Janssen that looked into the effects that reflecting on a positive experience has on a group.
What is reflective practice?
Reflective practice is a little more than the casual process of thinking about a past experience.
Reflective practice is a conscious effort to think about an experience with the goal of making an insight into it. This can be invaluable as taking a deeper look often brings to light things that you would never have noticed, for example, a pattern of behaviour that we have fallen into time and time again. As a result of this, reflective practice is hugely important for developing self-awareness, which is an important part of emotional intelligence (Which is a great book, by the way, read about it and others on our must-reads list here).
Of course, the process of reflecting on one’s experience is also a great way of getting insights that can be carried on to the next time you find yourself in a similar situation. To put a ‘what not to do’ into your game plan (Or in the case of positive experience reflection, a ‘what to keep doing’).
Here is a handy infographic I made that depicts one process of positive reflective learning.
Fred Janssen compared the differences in outcome when groups of students reflected on negative (or problematic) experiences versus when they reflected on positive experiences. His results are highly encouraging for this line of thought. The results indicate that reflection on positive experiences leads to more innovative resolutions to issues, the students were more highly motivated to follow through with these resolutions and the group had more positive feeling overall than when reflecting on negative experiences.
The results support the idea and reflecting on positive experiences just make sense. Perhaps it’s a question you may ask yourself next time you do something really, really well: How can I keep doing this?
Please let me know what you think in a comment below!