Trusting reflective practice

Reflective practice is a very different process from pragmatic thinking. When immersed in reflection, we can go into irrational and undifferentiated regions of the mind. We are not limited to what is logical, rational and objective like our thinking must be. We can realize why we are avoiding professional development or devoting our experience to unthinkable dangers. We can login to our unconscious minds and receive what we need to consider, see or do next.

When we reflect, we become subjective about what is objective facts. We look for our spin, interpretation or story to apply. We validate our own point of view while allowing others to have theirs. We see the evidence from several different perspectives and incorporate that diversity into our understanding.

When we are thinking, we are insisting that we be objective about the facts. We are opposed to denial, delusion and unfounded speculations. We are decidedly pragmatic while we stick to the evidence. We want nothing to do with subjectivity, irrationality and illogical pursuits. We want to be right at all cost. We are afraid of being wrong if we deviate from consistent  lines of reasoning and accepted categories of evaluation. When we are thinking, we cannot trust our reflective practice. It appears dangerous and likely to get us in trouble.

We trust reflective practice when we are not afraid. We are appreciating what we're facing. We're enjoying the opportunity. We're seeing the good, the value or the lesson in situation. We're wanting to grow from the experience. We're looking forward to making more sense, seeing things in a new way and getting better ideas for how to proceed.

Reflective practice can be done many ways. Here are my favorites:

Investigative practice: When we reflect on a situation as a mystery, we become fascinated. We look for more clues. We suspect we have not begun to ask the right questions. We look for ways to narrow the possibilities of what to consider. Our exploration is panoramic and divergent at first. We are "living the questions" and piecing together a puzzle.

Creative practice: When we reflect on our condition as a design problem, we become creative. We realize that things are not as they appear and we are free to play with the meaning. We change the definition of the obvious problem and infer a hidden level to the situation. We reframe the facts with metaphors and analogies to make better sense of unexplored possibilities.

Imaginal Practice: When we reflect on a situation with different scenarios, we are using our imaginations. We picture how the existing condition could change into different outcomes. We explore different sequences of events for ways the problem could work itself out naturally or be transformed by a mere catalyst. We introduce other characters and plot twists to bring out different resources in the relationships.

Strategic Practice: When we look to leverage a situation that we don't control, we are reflecting on it strategically. Rather than take things literally, we see our weaknesses as hidden strengths and our success patterns as likely to fail. We look for ways our efforts may backfire. We wonder if there are opportunities we're not seeing or evidence we are over-reacting to. We are wary of the limitations of thinking, and avoiding falling into that trap.

Integrative Practice: When we reflect on opposing ideas, we are synthesizing winning combinations. We get out of either/or thinking into both/and possibilities. We realize the irreconcilable alternatives are two sides of one coin. We stop struggling and set up the two approaches working together in synergy. We formulate win/win solutions that bring out the best of both positions.

The more success we have with our reflective practice, the more we will trust it. We see the advantages it offers over our thinking. We'll discover that reflection does not get us into trouble like our objective thinking predicts. Rather, it realizes alternatives that thinking could never come up with. We learn from our experience of reflective practice to go there when we reach the limits of our objectivity.

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