The Importance of... what was it..? Oh yeah, Reflection!
My name is Nico, I am a Uruguayan International Business Student about to finish my placement year at the Catalyst Team; a badass team of students that help companies with their start-up plans at the Sussex Innovation Centre.
My role this year has had a lot to do with visualisation, creating marketing content, 3D rendering, and actual visualising of projects. Throughout my year here I have constantly been looking forward into the future. Partly because visualisation of anything is normally done so for something coming up in the future. So, reflection and general moments of thinking about the past or things I have gone through in my year rarely entered my thoughts. But towards the end of my year here, I was lucky enough to take part in a ‘reflective session’ hosted by a man called Alastair Creamer from a company called Eyes Wide Open. Granted, I was not a believer in the importance of reflection nor did I expect the session to have any impact on my philosophy about work. Little did I know, the value of reflection can have substantial beneficial effects on our employability, and I have come out of it learning more about myself than I ever cared to notice.
When I arrived to the training session I had my doubts about reflection and speaking about myself from a third-person point of view. In many ways I was afraid to think that perhaps my year expectations fell short, or perhaps my performance this year wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I put my pessimistic thinking aside however, and I gave myself in to the silly games and exercises that we were performing as a team. We each were asked to think of 5 memorable stories from our lives. Funny enough, most people in the room had ‘bad’ stories to tell, realising that experiences are much more memorable when they are bad rather than they are good. My story was about a traumatic experience I endured as a child, on a long and adventurous horse trek. During my 7 hour horseback ride we stopped twice, both times for everyone to go have a bathroom break and eat some food. Whilst on one of the breaks I found myself exploring my surroundings and came across an injured owl on the forest ground. Its big yellow devil like eyes staring deep into my soul… Before I could catch my breath and make sense of the beautiful creature a rock was sent flying through the air hitting the owl in the face and knocking it back. The guide who threw the fist sized boulder then grabbed a much larger rock ran up to the owl and smashed it over its head trying to desperately end the suffering of the animal, claiming that the bird was most likely shot down by poachers and left to die. I brought up this story in our reflective period seeing as the conveyors were trying to analyse personalities based off of these emotional memories, and I wanted to give them a story that was hard to analyse. I never really thought about how traumatic that experience was for me, what it did to me psychologically, or what it taught me about ‘being a man’ or the ‘suffering of our natural world’. All I knew was that it was a memory I rarely ever told to friends and it was just a memorable and moment that still haunts me. The discussion we had as a group about my memory was in the end quite insightful. I liked to think that I was raised in a manner where if someone or thing is suffering I would do anything within my power to ease their pain or aid them. But I think not having have said anything as a child, or having had done anything to prevent the owl from enduring a frightening and intense end led me to subconsciously creating a code of ethic in life. Reflecting and sharing this story with my peers made me realise how it actually wasn’t just a memorable experience but a shaping of my personality and character. One that led to me thinking of how all my other most memorable moments moulded me into who I am today.
The other activity that I found very valuable was when the session conveyor made us all write one positive comment about each person on our team and mention what we like most about working with that person. Having a team of 9 thus meant that I would have 8 comments put on my poster. Again, this kind of activity was a little uncomfortable for me, however despite everyone saying really nice things about each other, we went on to analyse and reflect on what these messages meant. In the end, something that I never really could pinpoint, we all learned what our core skills are, from the perspective of our colleagues. This kind of information is really insightful and good to know, here is why. Throughout the entire year, when I was asked “what role do I have in the team” I would try and modestly answer saying, “I’m the bigger picture guy, with a good mentality for stepping away from challenging tasks, breaking them down and finding ways of making more value out of simple projects”. After I received feedback from the people I worked with all year, I realised that I was a little off with my role. I was told that my best qualities are my ability to visualise hard to understand concepts, that I am a good story teller, and my well-spoken articulation makes me good at teaching concepts and keeping people engaged with what I am speaking about. Although these kind of skills make me blush, it gave me a really good method of explain to people or even better, potential employers, about my core skills. Whilst reflecting on my colleague feedback, I ranked my core skills for the first time ever. I now have memorised in my head that my real value lies in what I see that nobody else does, and furthermore the way I approach it and rally people behind my ideas makes me a more efficient and accepted leader in an office environment. But to go back to the first point of this activity, I had never thought about how much better it would sound in an interview when asked the most common questions, “what are your skills” or “what do you bring to the table”, most people would just answer, “well I think/believe my skills are…”, but now I can avoid feeling cocky or like I’m bragging by saying, “my colleagues tell me my best skills and qualities are…”, and then if they like something specific, for example, if I were asked “tell me why you believe you see the bigger picture better than most people”, I can back it up with my colleagues’ feedback and then my own opinion about how I felt that I created value all year round. So, to briefly summarise why I believe one should spend time reflecting is basically because you will surely discover things about yourself and your past that can have significant impacts on your future. I believe it’s important to learn from your past and keep it closely in mind when addressing future planning. Learning from your mistakes is a lesson most of us will all have drilled into our heads, but paying attention to your subconscious and why you think the way you do, and how that transcends into your personality and character is very valuable that very few people do. When we reflect we can understand better our feelings and ultimately figure out ways to cope with other people’s feelings and emotions as well. Paying attention to your personal development by reflecting can lead to better understanding of yourself and the environment you’re in and ultimately figure out what will or does make you happy.