Reflective Thinking

Since it is technically still the beginning of the year, I thought I would share something very useful that I learned in undergrad and graduate school: reflective thinking. For those who are not familiar with reflective thinking, this is when you are conscious about your own thinking and analyze them. Typically, you think through your past learning experiences then evaluate them and make decisions on how you want to change the way you respond to new experiences or situations; this is to help you with future planning or better decision making. The most important aspect of reflective thinking is being aware of your own biases, knowledge, and previous experiences. For instance, from my previous experience training as a school counselor, I learned that I was too concerned with obtaining high grades (performance-based learner). Therefore, in my current program, I made it my goal to have a mastery goal orientation (learning because I want to learn) and be able to apply my learned knowledge into my personal life. I wanted to internalize the information that I was learning so it will stay in my long-term memory and apply to daily situations. Through this experience, I learned that by following my curiosity about how to help students succeed better, I was able to identify other potential career paths where I can be an effective agent of age. Reflective thinking is easier said than done because of our hectic schedules. However, if you are able to incorporate this practice into your life, it could help you make informed decisions and appreciate the small things in life.

Why reflective thinking?

Taking the time to think and be more conscious of our actions helps us make better-informed decisions. I believe this is a great tool especially if you are trying to decide which road to take in life. This tool is also useful if you are considering or in the process of switching career fields because thinking about the skills and knowledge that you already possess could help you identify the new career that could meet your needs. For example, when I finished my first graduate program and could not find a school counseling position. I had to really think about what was important to me and what role I can play in my field to help me achieve my goal of helping students achieve their goals in life. I thought about the skills that I learned as a school counselor and a researcher. I also thought about skills that I already possess and my ultimate goal of making a difference in people’s lives (either direct service or contributing to the research field). I realized that where I am in higher education or working with K-12 students, I can use my skills to impact students’ lives. As a result, no matter where you are in life, stopping to think is extremely helpful not only in decision making but also helping you see the great things in life.   

For those who are interested in adapting reflective thinking into your lives, below are a few strategies that I tried and loved.

  1. Reflection Journal – I did this reflection journal in undergrad for a student organization that I was a member of. The goal was to reflect on my abilities and capabilities as a student leader in my campus. Ultimately, journaling every week helped me realize the type of leader I am and the skills that make me an effective leader in the community. I would suggest this for anyone because this acts as a diary and you can write entries however you want. Plus, you can practice your writing skills.
  2. Passion Planner – I loved my passion planner because it was designed to help people identify their long-term and short-term goal and how to track them. At the end of each month, there is a reflection section where they ask you questions about how you felt you did during the past month. I have about six or more of these planners from undergrad and grad school. My favorite part of the planner is that they have a weekly section where they provide you by the hour breakdown. I like this feature because it helps visually see what my schedule looks will look like. This is a great planner for organization and reflective thinking. I highly recommend this especially if you have a busy schedule and prefer a physical planner.

Need some help with organization or time management? The Center for Academic Success (CAS) provides academic coaching (including time management and organization), writing consultation, and workshops to help students become successful during their time at USG. I used their services as a student. I definitely recommend using their services.

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