We hear a lot about effective reflecting as a catalyst for change – but what does it actually mean and how can you apply it to your life and circumstances?

Let’s take the example of procrastination as something that we can use this tool for – although it could be used for any behaviour that isn’t serving you. 
Perhaps your procrastination tendencies are not as crippling as some, but do you still occasionally succumb to bouts of inaction, leading to anxiety caused by inaction… and then experience negative results from the inaction due to procrastination?

There are a lot of strategies one can use to procrastinate.

For some, a favourite strategy for procrastinating can be rumination - going around and around in your head, playing and replaying scenarios where you didn't like the outcome and trying to change the past by thinking about it and thinking about different ways it could have been.

This isn't a 'bad' strategy, and, indeed it could be very helpful if you learn from it and implement new behaviours which influence a more positive outcome next time a similar scenario arises.

However, if the rumination continues and you aren’t able to get past the hamster-wheel of “he said/she said” or “if only…” then you get stuck in inaction and the procrastination has happened.

Other procrastination strategies might be online shopping, scrolling through social media, binge-watching TV, eating, phoning a friend… the list is pretty long.  It can even be socially accepted activities like going to the gym or gardening or exercising, or walking the dog and so on.  Even cleaning the house can suddenly become much more interesting than, for example, doing your taxes.

It becomes procrastination when you are using the activity, whatever it is, to try to avoid something uncomfortable, something you don’t want to do or don’t want to feel. 

Stuck, unacknowledged feelings are often at the heart of most of the unhelpful behaviours we do. 

Reviewing, reflecting and getting curious about your inner landscape starts the process.  Then truly acknowledging the feelings, feeling the feelings without judging them, learning what they have to tell you, then letting them go and allowing a more helpful feeling to permeate through you is a way to bump yourself over whatever hump is in your way.

A simple and useful tool to help bring yourself into a more helpful space is based on Borton’s Development Framework using 3 simple questions:

1.   What?
2.   So what?
3.   Now what?

You can use this framework to coach yourself to uncover insights and set new actions or behaviours in place.

1. What?

This question is used to honestly review the experience. 

You can use it to describe the events in detail.  It can also look at the roles played by those involved in the events.  It is also useful as a question to get in behind the obvious superficial presentation of the event and go a bit deeper, exploring underlying feelings, emotions, thoughts and patterns that may be present.

For example, applying it to our ruminating and procrastinating – “What is really going on here?”…  Get curious, delve into the reason behind the procrastination, explore your inner landscape which is normally lurking in the unconscious or sub-conscious parts of your mind.  Usually there is an uncomfortable feeling.  You might like to explore “What am I really feeling?” and then go onto “What do I want to avoid feeling?” 

Other useful questions to put on the table here are along the lines of:
“What happened?”  “What was I doing?”  “What were others doing?”  “What was my part?”  “How could I have influenced the events and created a different outcome?”  These kinds of questions explore the roles that were played in the event or circumstance. 

2. So what?

This question enquires about the meanings and ramifications of the event. 

It explores the feelings generated a bit further and seeks to make sense of the events to finally come to a conclusion about the events.

For example – “How do I feel about this?”  “What does it mean to me and my situation?”  “Why did this happen?”  “What could I have done differently?”  “What is important about this?”  “How does this impact me/my situation?”  “How do I feel about that?”

In the case of the procrastination, let’s say you want to avoid confronting a colleague but you know you must – your “So what?” questions might include “What am I making this mean about me?”  “What am I making this mean about them?”  “Are my assumptions correct?”  “Why do I choose to believe this?”  You might like to challenge self-concepts, and how you perceive the other person, and the roles you are both playing.  

3. Now what?

This phase explores the next step. 

Now that you have the information and understanding, what are the likely further outcomes from the event?  Additionally, you can now also explore what alternatives could be put in place to offset the outcomes or maximise opportunities and minimise risks. 

Action plans come out of this phase.

For example – “What do I need to do now to take action?”  “Where do I go from here?”  “What happens now?”  “How can this be resolved?”  “What can I do to impact the outcome?” 

And the final questions which arises out of the reflection: “What have I learnt from this?” and “How can I be different as a result of this experience?” “What can I learn about myself and my behaviours?”  And, “What can I do differently in a different moment when something similar might arise?”

“Review and reflect” is such a simple tool, yet, like any tool, it takes practice to master it.  One must pay attention and catch one’s self when doing the unhelpful strategy and then encourage the new way of doing the behaviour and practice, practice, practice. 

What could you apply this to in your life?


Belinda Bio 1