You may have heard the words, Go to your room, a handful of times. A statement that you have probably heard your parents tell, usually after a fight with your sibling or an act of defiance.

When we get told to go to our rooms, it is to punish us, but it is also an indirect way of teaching us to be a better version of ourselves. When we do something wrong, we get sent to our rooms. Being confined in a four-walled room, without a kindred soul to chat with, without a phone to scroll through (ideally) forces us to THINK; think about what we did and what droves us into doing it and reflect on ourselves.

Reflective thinking – what it means

Reflective thinking means taking the bigger picture, analyzing every nook and cranny, and understanding all of its consequences. It does not mean that you need to write down your plans or what you have done in the past. Reflective thinking means to truly understand or at least try to understand why you did what you did, and why that is important. It often includes delving into your feelings, reactions, and emotions.

Reflective thinking is considered a hard nut to crack because we all know that it is very easy to criticize others but judging ourselves gives us the jitters. So, we consider it a trivial task and tend not to address the elephant in the room. 

Why it’s important?

Reflective thinking is important as it gives us the true perspective of a situation which leads us to follow the right path. Perfection is a social construct. Striving to be Perfect is similar to fighting a losing battle. We all make mistakes. Apologizing for your mistakes is not that easy. It takes courage to own up and say sorry. But apologies are meaningless if not followed up with self-reflection and reflective thinking. It is a form of entitlement and emotional manipulation to think that we can be ignorant and take our mistakes for granted because we can apologize repeatedly.

Reflective thinking improves our decision-making skills. It increases one’s confidence in decision-making. Even the Greatest leaders have moments of self-doubt, which comes from wondering whether a snap judgment made was the right thing or not. Therefore, clarity from our past experiences and decisions matters and could diffuse those doubts and help you improve the decisions that we make, little by little.

The art and practice of self-reflection are important for all aspects of our life. It is preferred in academics as it enables students to judge their actions and freely express their feelings. This is important from a professional standpoint because, it teaches us to be self-critical, point out our own mistakes, and find solutions. Moreover, when we know our weaknesses and strengths, it is easier to bear criticism from others.

“Nothing and no one faze me as I am, my judge, jury, and executioner”, something like that.

Being able to express ourselves objectively is a good quality that is also useful in the corporate world; it can help us stand out amongst competitors while enabling us to adapt and evolve.

How we practice it?

Reflective thinking is also not a “One size fits all” concept. The way we go about it varies from person to person and their preferences and attitudes in life.

For example, if you are a person who likes to jot everything down, you can keep a journal to write about your experiences and try to make sense of them. On the other hand, if you are not ascribed by default, you can allocate a minute or two of your day to think, reflect and improve. 

Sometimes, we are put into environments beyond our control, that require us to reflect. It can be in a class where students are instructed to write a reflective piece on what they have learned; it can be in a social situation where you are required to be a moderator or where you have to defend yourself or someone else. Reflection can also come in the form of reviews and evaluations.

For all the psych nerds out there, here are some popular theories on reflective thinking and learning.

Kolb’s Learning Cycle

This is a four-stage learning cycle published by David Kolb. Each stage supports the next stage, which includes:

  • Concrete experience (having a new experience)
  • Reflective observation (reflecting on that experience)
  • Abstract conceptualization (learning from that experience)
  • Abstract experimentation (apply what you have learned from that experience)

Schön’s model

Schön’s model of the reflective thinking process, presented in 1991, is based on the concepts of

  • Reflection-In-Action 

Quick reaction and thinking take place when we are in the middle of an activity. This allows us to look at a situation, understand why it is occurring and respond accordingly.

  • Reflection-On-Action

Takes place when we look back at an activity, in which we are more likely to think more deeply about the way we were feeling and its cause.


Thinking too much (Overthinking) cannot be considered a good thing. Reflective thinking is always great, but overthinking can destroy you. Everyone makes mistakes, and many of us hold regrets. The decisions we make daily are difficult. Sometimes you make a choice that differs from expectations, and that is okay. Maybe you made the right decision, and it was a close call. That is okay too. Maybe you chose a course of action which had undesirable consequences. And that is okay. 

Your choices, decisions, and course of action are all your own and never NEED to lead to regret if you have the right mindset. The mindset should focus on decision making to transverse new lands of opportunities. Stop judging yourself on the road you took to get where you are today. Overthinking happens when we fail to realize that.

Every decision made has a consequence – good or bad, and they should never be feared, but rather encouraged. Trial and error help build character. Using your past experiences as a guide to help build your future is exactly what we need, at this time and age. 

“We don’t learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience”.

John Dewey

Written by: Rtr. Kaveesha Jeyanthan

Edited by: Rtr. Imesha Ilangasinghe


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