Learning how to reflect
Updated: Sep 14
- Photo Gaetano Cessati -
I signed up for a supervision training with the intention of expanding my skills as a professional coach. But although I have always been supervised in my practice, whether individually and/or in groups, I quickly faced a challenge that I had underestimated: learning through reflection. My experience and my professional culture being largely action-oriented, the training sessions made me oscillate between confusion and skepticism about the quality of the learnings that I was going to be able to draw.
Supervision is a community of practice where participants learn through reflexive dialogue between themselves and with the supervisor. This learning is done both by reflection, which focuses on the «what» of the experience, and reflexivity which considers the «I», meaning the person engaged in the experience. These two types of exploration make it possible to give meaning to a lived experience, to draw lessons from it and to act differently. While many animals learn through experience, only humans have the ability to step back and reflect on past, present and future events.
But this ability to intentionally examine our thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviors to generate new understandings and perspectives is not easily accessible to all. It requires openness, courage, imagination, and especially the acceptance that to a given problem, there can be several interpretations and solutions and not a unique good answer. In our fast-paced world where we must know how to make decisions quickly, it may even seem quite counter-intuitive.
So, if a reflexive practice can be both a breath of fresh air and a tremendous accelerator of personal and professional development, how to learn to reflect? Often, an upsetting external event can serve as a trigger and naturally lead us to want to question ourselves and review our ways of thinking and functioning. This is what happened to me this year, when a particularly impactful event in my work prompted me to seek the help of a specific supervisor to take the time to understand and learn from what had happened.
Beyond the triggering event, it is often enough to try it to adopt it. It is by experiencing learning through reflection that we will develop our ability to step back, to examine without judgment our emotions and intuition, to tame the unknown and uncertainty, and to generate learnings. This is what happened to me during my training. And be supported in this process by a professional supervisor who will create the environment and relationship conducive to this reflective practice, is to put all the chances on our side to make it a positive experience that will quickly become an essential part of our professional practice.
In the meantime, I invite you to take a few minutes for a quick activity:
Think of recent work experience, whether positive or challenging
Visualize this experience in as much detail as possible, including the people involved, the settings, the facts, but also your feelings, thoughts and emotions.
Reflect on this experience by mentally answering the following questions:
What specific events or moments marked you during this experience?
What did you learn from this experience, about yourself or your work?
Were there any unexpected ideas or revelations?
How has this experience contributed to your personal or professional growth?