Life is lived forward and understood backward

To quote Mintzberg whom I referenced in my last blogpost , ‘As Kierkegaard once observed, life is lived forward but understood backward. Managers may have to live strategy in the future, but they must understand it through the past’

At the point at which events happen we often cannot totally understand their meaning and certainly not their full implication. We can only infer what this may mean in the future. However we can and should look back and reflect how events have shaped where and who we are now in order to move forward.

This is not about being stuck or living in the past, rather it underlines the importance of reflection.

I have always been a strong supporter of reflective learning and its importance in the process of learning and development, both formal and informal.

There are two ways in which Schon  recommended that we reflect:

  • Reflecting in action whilst doing something. Often this is incorporated into learning journals which are used in formal study
  • Reflecting on action, that is after the event. This concept was further developed by Peter Senge as part of his work on the Learning Organisation.

So reflection is valuable and important both from an individual point of view and organisational, however  here I will focus on the individual and come back to organisational reflection at a later date.

To recap, reflection is important in learning, in making sense of how we got to be where we are now so that we can do things differently in the future.

It is important to have a framework in which to do this and Kolb offered this when he developed the learning cycle:

The learning cycle

Based upon this, here are some guidelines on reflecting:

  1. Take the time after an event to consider what worked well, what didn’t work well and what can be learned from this
  2. Note this down in a journal either electronically or by hand. I still much prefer to keep a journal by hand!
  3. Identify from the lessons learned what needs to be done differently
  4. Adjust your plans and note these down at this point.

An example of my use of this has been in facilitating workshops. I plan, reflect and then capture the lessons learned and rewrite the plan for use next time.

In developing a personal development plan for moving forward the same principles apply.

  • Consider what has happened in your life, maybe taking a timeline and significant events, and identify what went well and what you have taken from this. What has changed you, what did you learn?
  • Then review what didn’t go so well and reflect on what happened. What were the barriers to your success and how could you have overcome them?
  • It is as important to reflect upon what worked well as upon what didn’t work so well.

This is not an exercise in beating yourself up! However it is important to be able to capture an understanding of what worked and why, and what didn’t work and why, in order to move forward.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris. For more information contact barbara here

 

 

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