Where Are the Rewards for Reflection?

One of the definitions of the word reflection is “the bending or folding back of a part upon itself”. In a way, when we reflect, we fold back upon ourselves. The act of reflecting can us to become aware of our past actions in order to impact the future in a positive way.

Leadership requires a great deal of reflection in order to improve and change; yet we resist the idea of doing something that feels stagnant. We don’t get obvious and immediate rewards for doing it. Nobody is out there giving us high fives for reflecting. We don’t get paid for it. It takes time. And sometimes reflection makes us cognizant of our imperfections, and that doesn’t feel very good.

Besides, we’re really busy and seem to be hard wired for action. There are organizational goals to be made. Children to raise. Volunteer activities to be involved in. These things make us feel like we’re moving forward; and the action we take makes us feel good. It gets our adrenaline going, and may also release a few endorphins or serotonins to reinforce busy-ness.

We get rewarded from the external world for moving forward. So that’s what we do. We move forward. We stay busy. We take action. And…..we resist reflecting.

What are the rewards for reflection?

The rewards for reflection are subtle and less than obvious (when was the last time you received a bonus from your organization for excellent execution of reflection?). However, if you notice, you may observe some rewards when you make reflection a regular practice:

Improved action: When you ask yourself what you did well and what you could have done better following a specific action, it can help to improve future similar actions. It’s also possible that by reflecting on specific actions in light of your values, your organization’s vision or strategic goals – that you’ll be better prepared to take the right
actions in the future.

Better decisions: Similar to improving actions, decisions will get better as you reflect on them. For every decision, there are often positive results and less-than-positive results. If you spend some time reflecting after a decision, you may be able to understand what the good and bad outcomes were in order to be able to make your future decisions better.

Increased intuition: Intuition involves a “knowing” based on learning from past experiences and is often described as a gut feel. Learning to “go with the gut” provides a definite advantage for leaders in fast moving organization. Reflection can build up your intuitive abilities as you regularly spend time reviewing past performance and apply what you’ve learned to current and future situations.

Healthier relationships: When you reflect on your actions and decisions, some of our thoughts may be around how you’ve treated others. As you reflect and practice new and better ways of interaction with others, what you’ve learned can be applied to developing healthier relationships.

Reflection may very well be one of the most impactful actions you can take as a leader. The rewards are not always immediate, but the effort that you invest in reflection will pay off over the long run.

What other rewards have you reaped from reflection?


For a reflective methodology that takes very little time, check out Reflection in Fifteen Minutes with Bullet Points. You might also like to follow our Thoughtful Thursday posts; a regular reflective practice on this site.

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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