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The Action Cycle: Step 8 Reflection

a puddle on a sidewalk with the reflection of a colorful sign
Reflection helps you see in a new way

The task or project is done. You’re relieved and happy, and now it’s time to reflect to move forward.

Reflection is a really valuable process to adopt if you ever want to grow, maintain, improve, prevent future issues, and stop reinventing the wheel.

By taking the time to reflect, you can not only save time on the next task or project, but you’ll be able to absorb or synthesize what you’ve learned. The bigger the accomplishment and the more skills and habits you develop, the more valuable the reflection. Even if you failed miserably, (especially if you failed miserably), spending time on reflection can be critical to your ability to keep moving forward.

Reflection can be helpful in almost any area of your life, even gardening, holiday gatherings, hosting guests, and travel.

When to begin reflecting? I think it’s a great idea to do this during the action phase as well as after you are completed. If you reflect as you go, you can be more aware of your progress and make any adaptations needed along the way.

The final Reflection is essential.

*Reflection Includes:

Celebration – From a quick “Yes!” to a big post-event party, it’s important to acknowledge that you were able to complete something, step-by-step, all the way to the end. Take at least a moment to savor the feeling.

Celebrating is a way of adding gas to your engine to keep you motivated. We humans tend to focus on the negative, what went wrong, and how we failed. We need to retrain our minds to look for the good, so celebrating our “Wins” is one way to do that.

Maintenance - Depending on your completed task, goal, or project, maintenance can be crucial to the actual over-arching goal.

  • We want a clean desk – and keep it clean.

  • We want to get healthy – and stay healthy.

  • We want to develop a better system for some issues – and then maintain them. If we don’t, the issues will come back.

Decide if this accomplishment is something you want to maintain, and then continue with Evaluation to give insight as to how and why to do that.

Evaluation - There are many methods to do an “after-action” evaluation. For a project review, you might journal or discuss with a trusted friend or peer. Include your thoughts about what went well, what you would do again, any particular challenges along the way and how you handled them, what you might do differently next time, and ways to prepare for the next big project. If this is something you want to maintain, be sure to create a plan for maintenance using your evaluation reflections.

If you have completed a team project, I recommend a formal meeting with a Reflection agenda. I found several references to the After-Action Review, often used in project management. They tend to focus on four questions:

  1. What was expected to happen?

  2. What actually occurred?

  3. What went well and why?

  4. What can be improved and how?

Other Sample Reflection Questions:

What went well? (www)

What could be better?

What system, routine, or habit did I put into place - and do I want to maintain it?

What is my new identity and do I want to keep it up? How will I do that?

What challenges did I overcome?

Is this something to maintain? Why?

What new skill did I utilize?

What energized me or drained me in the process?

What’s next? *This is where you start the Action Cycle all over again, with new Awareness, Acceptance, and an improved Mindset - prepared to ease right in!

Reflection is the perfect activity for December and January but can be done at any time. Be sure to download the free Year-End Review worksheet on the Resource page for my book.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward.”

- Steve Jobs


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