Last year while I was completing a four month intensive leadership training course, we were taught about a process called Critical Self Reflection, CSR for short. Throughout the course I was required to submit a CSR every couple of weeks, and it had to follow a certain structure and criteria. A key part of your development as a person is being able to critically reflect on your actions, decisions and reactions to situations in your life.
Taking something that happened and breaking it down into smaller components allows you to really understand the choices you made, what worked, and what didn't go so well. You can then go deeper and look at your strengths and weaknesses in the scenario, where you need to focus on, and the way you could do things better or differently next time. This helps you to prevent repeating past mistakes or unhelpful behaviours.
Here is the final reflection on the CSR process that I wrote at the end of the leadership course, which I completed in June last year.
I have to say, at the start of the course I thought writing CSRs was a complete waste of time, and were purely an annoying task that I had to complete for the sake of completing the task. But, as I progressed through the course and worked out how this whole thing works, it started making sense.
Writing a CSR, or doing one in my head after events became a useful tool. I was able to really look into my actions, and into why I made the choices that I did in various situations. I started to really look into who I am as a person, and how I operate. I have definitely learnt a lot from writing the CSRs, and they're a tool I plan on utilising in the future for my personal self development.
CSRs help you to learn from your experiences, and turn them into lessons that you can take into future situations. As philosopher George Santayana said "Those who fail to heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."
One thing that I have learnt from an experience during the course, is the importance of going into situations with a plan. You won't always have a fully developed plan or have all the information, but you need an idea of what you are going to do, and have some guidelines to keep you on track towards your goal.
When I read in Pete Blabers book The Mission, The Men and Me, he strongly reinforced his message 'When in doubt develop the situation.' He wrote about the impossibilities of creating a highly complex and lengthy plan. Rather he encouraged having an outline of what you aim to achieve, an end state, left and right parameters and the ability to utilise adaptability, innovation and audacity in achieving the end state.
You will never be able to enter the situation with the full picture, so a lot of your plan needs to be developed as you go, hence the 'develop the situation' mantra. Key pieces of information that your plan hinges on will have changed by the time you begin to implement it, so you need to be able to think on your feet.
The key take away from that is the importance of both having a plan, and developing the situation as you enact the plan.
Finally the biggest lesson I believe I've taken away from this course that 'there are no mistakes in life, only lessons learnt.' I only had a phrase for this after reading Pete Blabers book, and it encompasses what I often feel after different experiences. Everything I've done on this course and done during my life, are lessons that I can learn from and take forward to the future.
When I focused on events as mistakes rather than lessons, I only looked at the negative points and tried to shove the event to the back of my mind. But now, I aim to look at everything in my life as a lesson instead, and I always work out what I can learn and take away from the situation that will help in the future.
10 Key Points I Learnt During The Leadership Course
1) You can learn a lot from good leaders, but even more from bad leaders
2) Critical Self Reflection should be seen as an opportunity rather than a chore
3) There are no mistakes in life, only lessons learnt
4) You're never going to have all the information to make decisions
5) Lessons can be learnt in the most unlikely ways
6) Never turn down an opportunity to hear someone's feedback
7) Hard work and optimism go a long way
8) Don't back down from challenges in the face of failure
9) Catastrophising doesn't get you anywhere, it just wastes time
10) The difference between a child and an adult is one day