Self-Reflection for Professional Development – A List of Awesome Questions. For effective professional and personal development, we require the ability to use insightful questions in ‘reflective practice’.
Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions, build awareness and insight, so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. What we know is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning – deliberate reflection on experience is essential.
The regular use of a personally-chosen (and changeable) set of reflective questions can form a practical method of continuous learning and improvement and enhance one’s growth mindset and openness to feedback. Good questions activate our conscious mind, shifting us out of ‘auto-pilot’ and out of ‘default’ directions toward ‘deliberate and designed’ directions.
Of course, there are virtually unlimited awesome, courageous and constructive questions we could ask ourselves, so the ‘set’ of questions that you decide to employ must be shaped by certain criteria, experience and mentorship in a way that serves your goals and objectives.
Self-reflection that leads to healthy and constructive change can also enhance and drive performance, wellbeing and positive relationships. These sorts of questions are often used in coaching and Leadership development, as well as wellbeing and resilience building.
So here are some tips and ideas:
- Start with giving yourself permission to use a small set of questions (see sample LISTS of AWESOME QUESTIONS below)
- Determine the type of questions you need to be effective – do they produce action checks, data checks, feelings-checks, assumption checks, direction checks, reality checks, values checks, and so forth?
- Ensure a balance of open questions (how, why, what, describe, explain) and closed questions (yes/no, short answers)
- Ensure a balance between searching for improvements and risks and building on strengths and value-based actions
- Be wary of the ladder of inference (the difference between inferences/assumptions and information/facts)
- Add in a question that asks “is this set of reflective practice questions working for me? If not, what questions would I swap out? and “What is the real question I should be asking myself right now?”
- Ask others to give you their answers and observations to your same set of questions
- Engage the support of peers, supervisors, mentors and other trusted advisors to help you determine a good set of questions and how to answer them courageously
- PRACTICE using the questions in an authentic manner
- WHAT NEXT? When you have the answers – decide on specific actions you can take for personal and professional development, based on your abilities, resources, intentions AND your personal values.
Samples of LISTS of AWESOME QUESTIONS
- What sort of questions should I be asking myself regularly?
- What questions have I been afraid to ask or have simply forgotten to ask?
- Is this set of reflective practice questions (I’ve decided to use) working for me?
- What is the real question I should be asking myself right now?
The Basic Debrief:
- What have I been trying to achieve (priorities/objectives/goals/tasks)?
- What information, skills, abilities, attitudes and resources do I need to accomplish my objectives/goals/tasks?
- What did I actually achieve?
- What’s going well?
- What’s not going well and can be improved?
- What can I do differently to help myself improve and strengthen?
- What can others do differently to help me improve and strengthen?
- What strengths and values and I using to help get me there?
3rd Party Perspective Questions:
- What would other people say to me about this… issue/event/thought etc
- What would my mentor say to me about this…?
- What would my past/future/alternative self say to me about this…?
- What would my best friend say to me about this…?
- What am I afraid of?
- What self-limiting thoughts or behaviours are holding me back?
- Do I have all the information I need?
- Is what I’m thinking 100% true?
- What’s another way of looking at this?
- Am I jumping to conclusions or catastrophsing?
- Is what I’m thinking and doing actually helping me or hindering me?
- Is what I’m thinking rational – what’s the big picture perspective?”
- Are my expectations realistic?
- Am I focusing on what I can control?
- Am I allowing self-criticism to overwhelm my self-compassion?
- What’s the next sensible, safe and assertive step (action) I should take right now?
- Who am I comparing myself too (my reference groups), and is this reasonable?
- Is this working? Is this working out for me? Is it what I want?
- How am I doing?
- When will I know that I’ve had enough?
- Am I doing too much? Am I not doing enough?
- Am I using my time wisely, and getting to the important things?
- What matters most in my life?
- Are my needs being met?
- Who is pulling my strings or influencing me?
- What am I really thinking and feeling about this situation/event/person?
- What’s already good in my life, and the things I’m grateful for?
- Am I really that good at this?
- Could I be doing more to help myself or others?
- Is this the time I really should be asking for help?
- What’s getting in the way of my goals and progress?
- Am I living true to myself?
- Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
- What am I doing or not doing that’s keeping me in status quo?
- What help and tools do I really need right now?
- Is what I’m doing in line with my values, needs and sense of purpose?
- What practical activities can I do to help myself feel well, good, happy and connected to the things I value in work and life?
Goal-Setting and Problem-Solving:
- What are my goals (short, medium, long term)?
- What are the steps I need to be taking?
- What are the resources and help I have to get there?
- What are the barriers that could prevent accomplishment
- What solutions can I generate for these barriers?
- Are my goals meaningful and S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-based)?
S.W.O.T. Analysis (in terms of our ability to accomplish my/our objective):
- What are my/our strengths?
- What are my/our weaknesses?
- What are my/our opportunities?
- What are my/our threats (competition, barriers, problems)?
Self-Concept and Self-Awareness Questions:
- Who am I? What social roles would I let define me?
- What do I like, love and value in life?
- What are my strengths and everyday abilities I can rely on?
- What would my actions, and how I spend my time, reveal about me to the objective observer?
- What and who do I feel connected too?
- What groups, people, tribes or teams would I identify with?
- What do I stand for?
- Am I consistent – do I do what I say I’m going to do?
- Does the world (other people) see me how I see myself?
- What would I like to be known for?
The miracle question:
- If I woke up tomorrow and a miracle had happened…and things were better or the way that I’d want them to be, what would be different (what would I see changed)?
A person who reflects throughout their practice is not just looking back on past actions and events, but is taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to his or her existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding. It may be the most important source of personal professional development and improvement.
It is also an important way to bring together theory and practice – “through reflection a person is able to see and label forms of thought and theory within the context of their work”. For some great reading look up these Authors: Borton 1970; Kolb and Fry 1975; Argyris and Schön 1978 and Gibbs 1988).
Contact us to talk about how the habit of self-reflection can enhance personal, team and organisational performance.