Reflection - The starting point for personal development

Updated: Mar 24


Taking control of your own learning and development is not a one-off exercise. It requires continuous cycles of reflecting and acting. The world and your goals are constantly changing - for instance, as you reach one goal you'll need to plan on where you go next, and how.

The fact that you are reading this means you're likely to be keen to invest in your personal development and to keep learning new things. Whether you are employed, self-employed, volunteering, or in another career 'state', learning can be valuable and fulfilling.

Whilst many of us like to jump straight to action, planning is an important first step. In this article we'll explore ways to plan your development using development theories and principles.

Meet Inglis (1994) and ERSI

Scott Inglis identified the concept of the 'Extraordinarily Realistic Self-Image' (ERSI). ERSI involves you reflecting on yourself from various perspectives and using different sources of information. There are various other models that have encouraged individuals to reflect on their work and life experiences to find meaningful ways forward.

So what perspectives might you consider when reflecting ahead of action?

- The current situation and what is demands - i.e. the existing pressures of your work ('the now')

- Your own feelings, ideas, and sense for where to go next and how ('the hunches')

- Feedback from other people - perhaps those you work with (colleagues, clients)('those around')

- performance indicators - for instance, an online influencer might take account of data relating to their followers and impressions ('the data') (be cautious - there are flaws to such simple stats). Performance indicators might occur at different levels - organisation wide, departmental, specific to your sector (aligned certain professional standards for instance).

Megginson and Whitaker (2015) suggest pitching your reflection on a 2 x 2 matrix that assesses these perspectives and their feedback on an individual-organisational axis, and a specific-general axis.

There's a certain degree of information gathering involved, but ERSI helps you consider diverse feedback from yourself and others, and helps you think beyond your current work position (whether you're self-employed or employed).

The four positions in the grid help you to balance dreams with some realities.

Time and Space

When we reflect we make time and space to think about where we want to go. The exercise of reflecting in itself is therefore valuable.


Put together your own ERSI grid.

Whilst doing so:

  • Reflect on data and feedback about yourself and where you want to get to.

  • When you reflect on feedback that's bad it can feel uncomfortable. Be honest with yourself about how much of this feedback is a true reflection on your ability and performance.

  • Be cautious that positive feedback isn't overly positive - we've a tendency to seek positive views and sometimes don't ask what could have been done better.

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