75 Powerful Reflection Prompts that Unlock Missing, Hidden Wisdom Every Person Needs
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” ~ Margaret J. Wheatley
Imagine that everything you’ve ever experienced has been wiped from your memory. How lost would you feel? On the other hand, what if your brain was constantly flooded by every sensation you’ve experienced? It would be an unbearable overload! So we can be thankful that the brain does daily sorting, filing, and clearing. Understanding that this happens gives us an edge, if we use it mindfully! We can influence the brain by telling it what to keep and what to discard through a practice of reflection. But reflection takes time and effort and it doesn’t come easily to everyone, so I’d like to share some reflection prompts that will get you started.
Why use reflection prompts?
If you’re a coach, teacher, parent, or leader, you can use these reflection prompts in two ways: 1) to assess the effectiveness of your sessions and 2) to point out ways you can improve the next session.
As individuals, we can use them to think deeply about and identify body sensations that accompany each experience. This powerful skill allows you to understand the past and affect real transformation for the future. As Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” But we won’t understand the past or how to attain a better future without deep reflection on each experience as it occurs.
When you create a ritual around a practice of reflection — creating a quiet, sacred time and place to explore your experiences — you’ll inform your brain as to the importance of the information you glean. As you create your ritual incorporate these three ideas:
1 . What is the purpose of your ritual – why are you doing it?
2. Associate behaviors that cultivate this purpose. This could be daily journaling to record thoughts, identify trends, etc. Deepening your mindfulness slows you down to savor the experience, learning from it.
3. Define specific behaviors you’ll repeat for each session — when, where, what, and how. Choose actions/surroundings that elevate your reflection session to a ritual.
Mindfulness and intentional action turn these reflection prompts into a powerful tool. I love what Tony Buon said about the benefits of self-assessing practices, “Great leaders develop through a never-ending process of self-study, self-reflection, education, training, and experience.”
75 Reflection Prompts help you become more aware and proactive
Focus on questions that expand your capacity for curiosity, noticing, awareness, learning, growing, and stepping forward. It’s easiest to reflect after the fact. Secondly, work at reflecting in the moment. Thirdly, reflect before the experience as you think about how you’ll approach a situation.
Basic questions to begin:
1. What happened? Replay the experience like a movie in your mind.
2. What was said and done by each individual involved?
3. What went well?
4. What didn’t go so well?
5. What was missing?
6. Where could there have been a better balance?
Reflection prompts to create greater empathy and awareness of others:
7. What did I learn about the other person that I didn’t know before?
8. Did they cause me to see something from a new angle?
9. Where did I do too much by not allowing them to speak or act?
10. Where could I have done more?
11. What emotional triggers did I push in them and why?
Reflection prompts to create more self-awareness:
12. What am I noticing?
13. What did I do out of routine or habit, which could have been more mindfully?
14. How did I honor my intentions?
15. How did my body sensations signal me?
16. Did I become aware of any incongruities that need to be resolved?
17. Were all my Parts in alignment or was part of me disengaged?
18. Did I feel resistance?
19. What underlying emotional triggers were pushed in me?
20. What excited/challenged me or made me nervous/sad/mad/uneasy etc?
21. What judgments came to mind that I had to consciously manage?
22. What did I have to tell myself to get past those judgments or negative thinking?
23. What state is my energy in now?
24. On the scale of frustrated to very satisfied, where does my energy rate?
25. What challenged me?
26. Were my expectations realistic?
27. Am I seeing any patterns forming?
28. Were assumptions influencing me?
29. How did my intuition serve me?
30. What would I do more of?
31. What would I do less of?
32. What would I do differently next time?
Reflection prompts to foster greater leadership skills:
33. How did my presence, or lack thereof, impact others?
34. Did I focus on potential?
35. How did I handle inconsistencies when I sensed them?
36. How well did I pay attention to body language and emotions?
37. Did I use silence effectively?
38. Where could I have encouraged further curiosity and exploration?
39. How could I have helped the other person be more confident?
40. How could I have been better prepared for this conversation?
41. What will I do differently? (Yes, this bears asking again at this point!)
Reflection prompts to deepen connection:
42. How did I help the other individual?
43. What did I do to deepen our connection?
44. What new possibilities does the other person see now?
45. Did we achieve all that we wanted or needed to achieve today?
46. How engaged was the other person?
47. Did I notice that something else is more important to the other person than what I assumed?
48. What could I read in the other person’s verbal and visual cues?
49. Did we have a meeting of minds or was there a stumbling block to being on the same page?
50. How does this impact their growth as an individual?
51. When did the other person seem most animated and excited?
Reflection questions that focus on communication:
52. Was our conversation too superficial, because I was uncomfortable with going deeper?
53. What did I enjoy about this conversation the most?
54. How much did I talk?
55. How much did I listen?
56. Did I ask good questions without being too nosy?
57. Did I jump to “fixing” a problem rather than supporting the person?
58. Did I express confidence in the other person?
59. Did I express appreciation for what they have already accomplished?
60. Did I really see the person or did I focus on what I perceived as a problem?
61. What came up during the conversation that was unexpected?
62. Where did we “waste” time?
63. What percentage of this conversation focused on…Correction? Support? Stepping forward?
64. Is our focus more on the negative/challenges or the positive/possibilities?
65. What was most enlightening about this conversation?
66. What new connections showed up during the conversation?
67. What’s disconnected that needs connecting?
68. What metaphor would I use to describe the conversation?
69. What forms of intelligence did we tap into?
70. What were we really talking about?
71. What was left unsaid?
72. What could we have done differently to produce a greater outcome?
73. What kinds of outcomes are we most often creating? Why is that?
74. How has our partnership progressed since the previous conversation?
75. What can we celebrate?
This is by no means the comprehensive list of reflection questions you can use. Feel free to modify it to fit your circumstances and needs. I do encourage you to document your responses so you can reread them to notice emerging patterns and to track progress. The key is to shift from a reactive mode to a reflective mode, so you can gain greater clarity before stepping forward. This ensures you’re actually going in the direction you desire.
Would you like to become more mindful and intentional? They really are building blocks for Stepping Forward. Why not download the Introduction to my Stepping Forward Program and see how it can enhance your skills.
Thank you for the use of your photo Luke Leung on Unsplash