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  • Writer's pictureKarl Walker-Finch

The hall of mirrors

My daughter’s started learning to read and a wave of nostalgia hit me when we dug out the Biff, Chip and Kipper books, a present from Grandma a year or so ago. It’s incredible how quickly she’s gone from being able to recognise a few letters to starting to read words, sentences, and books.

At the end of each short story there’s a page which asks questions about the story, an opportunity to reflect on who did what and why, to engage the reader and gauge their comprehension of the story, in addition to just being able to read the black and whites. This got me thinking about the importance of reflection on our own lives and our ongoing education.

Whether it’s the good, the bad or the ugly, reflection is imperative if you are going to learn effectively. Reflection can be done as much or as little as you want, but the more you do, the more effective it’s going to be.

For 18 months now I’ve kept a personal diary. This started as a “one line a day” type of journal and has now become something that often reads like War and Peace depending on the day I’ve had. I’m not going to proselytise on the merits of keeping a personal journal, but for me, it’s very therapeutic and it’s always interesting to flick back to what I wrote a year ago. It gives some perspective sometimes on what’s important in the moment and often the insignificance of the same event a year on.

Professionally I reflect as much as I possibly can. Any time I do or encounter something new. Any time something goes particularly well. Or indeed, on occasions when something hasn’t gone precisely according to plan. It’s in these times we learn what we are made of. Sometimes I do this alone, other times I will discuss cases with colleagues to gain their insights.

In the case of a positive incident, reflection can give me insight into why it went well and what I can take from this success and apply it again next time.

Reflection on negative incidents gives me the opportunity to critically review what happened, why it happened and what I can do to improve next time.

Success without reflection is luck.

Failure without reflection is negligence.

Reflection requires no subscription, no travel and remarkably little time. For the price of a pen and paper (or a note on your phone), a brief foray into a metaphorical hall of mirrors will allow you to see yourself from all angles giving you have the opportunity to grow and develop every day.

We can meander through life as if we're reading words on a page or using reflection we can take a step back and see the bigger picture, maybe understand the whole story and have a richer experience for a result.

Remember, this is for your eyes only. Be honest with yourself, nobody else need ever see this and the more honest you can be, the more you will gain.

If you need/want a little help to get you started, I’ve made my professional reflection log free to download here. It’s in the “For Dentists” section of my website but there’s nothing particularly specific to dentistry, it’s useful in every walk of life.

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