What is Personal Reflection ?
The ability to critically self reflect is unique to humans. In essence it requires person to look back at one’s actions, and examine one’s thoughts and feelings during that action. When we reflect on ourselves we regard ourselves as if seeing in a mirror. We look at who we are. If the mirror we hold to ourselves is clear and unsullied we can examine all aspects of ourselves clearly. If it is murky and unclear we cannot see ourselves clearly and as others see us. This process of holding a mirror to our inner selves is personal reflection.
Objectives of reflection
There are four goals of personal reflection processes in the fellowship programme. They are:
- Personal reflection is a tool to gain insight into our self. It enables us to see ourselves clearly-as we are; who we are.
- Personal reflection serves as a pause in action. Acting out of reflecting leads to better action next time.
- Personal reflection brings our unique strengths to the forefront so that we build on these. At the same time, it helps us to manage our weaknesses or slowly chip away these.
- A significant goal of reflection is that of regulating ourselves, and our behaviors toward the end goal of leading oneself. This is the main tool we have to sharpen ourselves.
The need for personal reflection in the fellowship programme
One of the core values of the fellowship is that leadership is centered around action. During the course of our actions, we may not pause to think about the actions, how our own actions affect us, and where the action springs from.
Personal reflection sessions help us relook at the actions we undertake, our patterns of responding to various situations. Our actions also change us, in that sense they become us. Thus it becomes necessary that after a period of action we take stock of who we are; what we have become.
Personal reflections are built along the fellowship programme in such a manner that after a period of action, they allow us to understand who we are and where we are headed so that ultimately we can steer our own selves.
The processes are designed to be markers or milestones in our journey towards developing core leadership competencies of courage, resilience and discovering the person we are capable of becoming.
In the fellowship, the GFs reflect on the following areas:
- Choices they have made.
- Their strengths and the determination that they have to forge ahead and succeed.
- Who they are- background, who are the different stakeholders in their life and how they respond to them.
- Who they are- minus the background and stakeholders- discovering own self.
- What they value.
- Their private dreams.
What will aid insight into one’s self?
The self reflection called for in these processes is different from rumination. In rumination one is constantly thinking about oneself, often in a negative over anxious way. In rumination we analyze situations and our actions in them, but this often assumes the form of constantly questioning oneself “ I should have done this in a different way- why did I do that?” The end result of such a rumination is often labeling oneself as a ‘failure’ and a refusal to act out of fear.
Personal reflection sessions need to be critical enough to provide context, to evaluate good and bad but not self punishing in terms of lamenting why one did this. All reflection is a springboard for better action and not paralysis.
Reflection is also different from simply recalling events that have happened or actions that one has undertaken. In recalling events, I may just chronicle events and my feelings about the events. In personal reflection, I look at how events and my own actions and reactions to it have affected ‘me’, how I have grown through it.
Fellowship design for reflection
Personal reflection is an end of the semester process for GFs to critically introspect on self. Thus Semester one follows by PR I, Semester two by PR II, Semester three by PR III and Semester four by PR IV. Each PR is designed keeping in mind the GF’s journey in the entire fellowship programme as well as the semesters that have preceded and will follow it.
The following are the objectives of the four PRs
PR I: Learning the PR process and using it as an effective tool to know myself
The main goal of the first PR process is to help the GF understand his/her responses to his/her experiences in the first semester and his/her growth due to the experiences
- slum immersion/village immersion-understanding essential similarities in being human and learning from the differences of people.
- process of change in oneself as a result of the experiences-what did I learn, how did I learn what I did.
- Discovering one’s patterns of responses to different people in field, among team.
- Understanding what has shaped these patterns
- Assessing one’s strengths-and weaknesses.
PR II: Discovering one’s inner self and beauty
PR II follows a period of responsible action and creating an impact in the field. The GF now has an understanding of steering oneself, of choices s/he has made and of resilience in face of change.
The goals of this PR are as follows:
- Choices one has made, understanding them and their context
- Discovering one’s unique power to impact people.
- Discovering core values-why one holds them.
- Preparing the road for understanding Who am I?- who are the stakeholders in my life, how do I manage these? Why am I here?
PR III: Articulation of private dream
PR III focuses on the GF’s understanding of his/her private dream, and the plan to unfold this.
GFs are encouraged to:
- Understand where their private dream comes from- is it theirs alone? does it come from reactions to situations and life experiences? unfulfilled desires of self/ of other stakeholders in their life?
- See themselves as the center of their private dream articulation steering the course of action.
- Plan a road map towards the realization of the private dream.
PR IV: Looking back; looking ahead- A perspective on the two years and planning life ahead
PR IV is at the culmination of the fellowship after a period of research assistantship. At this point the GF has to look back at the fellowship to understand what foundation/ground work has been done in the fellowship.
Specifically, the GFs now:
- Understand how his/her strengths have become his/her habits
- Use the experience of the Research assistantship to gain insight into steps required for converting private dream into reality.
Attitudes by which the GF are to participate in the PR
It has been recognized that the key to change in oneself is accepting who one is. This would be relatively simple if we are not blind to our selves. Through PR processes the GFs learn to accept without fear or favor, those parts of self that we may have been embarrassed about, that we may have denied to ourselves. Once we accept ourselves, we can bring about a room for change/regulation as we desire. The following are the specific attitudes that help the GF attain the most out of Personal reflection processes and without which the process turns out to be unsuccessful.
Critical self reflection: GFs are to participate in any PR processes in the spirit of looking within with honesty and with self-as-critic, but without undue criticism of self thus allowing his/her true individuality to unfold. In giving oneself the space for honest self reflection, the GF then accepts whatever s/he sees within thus paving the way for changing oneself from within.
The Gf considers action from many different angles- did s/he look at all different perspectives?-However unflattering, negative to self the answer to this reflection is.
Non judgmentality: When the GF keeps aside his/her feelings related to his actions, his/her life patterns, choices made so far, s/he proceeds to view them dispassionately with an attitude of a witness or observer of one’s life. The GF restrains from labeling his/her actions as either good or bad, but simply as part of what s/he did. It is then that s/he can gain insight into how and why of his/her behavior.
Trust: The personal reflection sessions are aided by talking and sharing one’s reflections so that one gets feedback and support; guidance and understanding of one’s habitual patterns of behavior. Often, this may mean opening that side of oneself to others that was perhaps hidden before. All the GFs participating in the reflection need to respect this and help others in sharing their inner selves.
The personal reflection sessions begin by eliciting a pledge of confidentiality from the GFs. This means that GFs are to keep all manner of insights and experiences shared by everyone in the group as private and not share the same with anyone who was not present in the group.
Dealing with discomfort in Personal Reflection Processes:
Reflecting on oneself and one’s actions is many times an uncomfortable process for a number of reasons:
- We are confronted with parts of self that make us anxious. Confronting why this could be so is the beginning of the self change process
- Looking back at what did not work means that we take responsibility to see our role in it and often confront our mistakes.
Thus understanding that a degree of discomfort in examining oneself is only natural would mean that s/he stays with it till s/he learns to accept negative emotions arising out of the processes.
Gains from the Personal reflection processes
Gains made from personal reflection processes in terms of insight and charting concrete steps for change need to be followed up in action. PR processes do not end as insightful journeys into self.
To ensure that they are manifested in changed behavior requires hard work and courage that the GF has to undertake in the months following the PR.