The Perks of Reflective Thinking

Explore how this thinking technique helps you make better decisions in life.
Kashyap Vyas

One among the greatest gifts of humankind is the gift of thinking. Yes, animals can also think, but not in the same level of magnitude as we humans can.

We can not only think, but we can think in multiple ways. Just to give you an idea, here are some of the many possible ways we think:

  • Abstract thinking
  • Analytical thinking
  • Concrete thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Convergent thinking
  • Divergent thinking, and more.

To make matters even more complex, each type of thinking can be again divided based on specificity. This article focuses on reflective thinking, which comes under critical thinking.


Reflective thinking – An integral element of critical thinking

Critical thinking is about making the right decision between two ideas based on analysis, rationality, and experience. Critical thinkers are inquisitive in the face of a question.

They do not make rash decisions based on incomplete facts and figures. So, fundamentally, critical thinking is all about making the right decision by gauging the arguments or the ideas involved.

Making the right decision becomes a whole lot easier if you have past experiences in the same situation. When you are familiar with such experiences, you will be able to make choices without spending too much time in analysis.

And this is where reflective thinking comes in.

What is reflective thinking?

Reflective thinking is the process of making decisions based on past experiences or drawing inspiration from past events.

Hence your experience plays an important role in reflective thinking. And there are different ways in which you can use reflective thinking to your advantage.

Reflective thinking is useful to easily subdue a problem or situation if you have experienced the same situation in the past. You can also use your experience to your advantage by applying past results in similar, but not exact situations by modifying the values you learned from it.

Reflective thinking is the real-life application of the saying “We learn from failure, not from success!”

How to leverage your past to your advantage?

With each passing second, your life gives you the invaluable gift of experience. Our experiences in life have profound effects on the way we think and influence our decisions in the present.

Reflective thinking and critical thinking are often used together or in the same context. One can argue that reflective thinking is the most important of critical thinking techniques, causing people to use both techniques synonymously.

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However, critical thinking is an umbrella term that encompasses various types of thinking, one of them being reflective thinking.

Another method of reflective thinking is to derive the experience from not just your own life, but from the lives of others. You can learn about the situation that presented itself before others and how they responded in return.

Each response will set off a certain set of events. Study them and see if that response was the right one, or find out if they could have handled it differently.

This means that reflective thinking is also flexible. The technique allows you to learn not only from your own experiences but also from others.

Why reflective thinking is important?

Reflective thinking is important because it enables you to make the right judgments without having to spend a lot of time analyzing and studying the situation.

In both our professional and personal lives, the judgments that we make have serious consequences. So understanding what makes a decision good or bad depends upon our evaluation of such ideas.

Reflective thinking starts with taking a step back, which is an important part of any problem-solving technique.

You must put yourself outside the situation and evaluate it with all the variables involved. Then you use your past experience to make plans or strategies that will create a desirable outcome from this situation.

The greatest strength you have in such cases is that you are not new to such a situation but have past experience and hence can predict the outcomes of each decision with greater success. Reflective thinking can be mastered if you nurture the following traits within you.

Self-awareness: First and foremost, you should have a firm grasp about yourself. Your abilities, your past experiences, and goals. Self-awareness helps you to have a better understanding of the position you are in, and what can be done from that position.

Self-improvement: Each experience is a lesson that needs to be learned. When you find obstacles or success, make sure that you study about the routes you chose and the experiences that come with it.

Empowerment: Apply the lessons learned from your experience and put them to use in real-life scenarios. You are empowering yourself to become a better version of yourself.

Why self-reflection is important in life?

In today’s fast-moving world, we are often packed with tight schedules that make days go by like seconds. We are so immersed in the present activities that we have no time to evaluate where we were years or months ago.

As Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “There is one art of which people should be masters – the art of reflection.


When you look back into yourself, you will find the wisdom hidden in all your success and failures. No matter how small they are, you will always have something to learn from. Reflective thinking puts what you have learned into practice.

Our past is a great teacher, not something that should weigh you down. It teaches you a great deal about the world that you are in, and about yourself.

Critical thinking is a great skill to have which helps you make better decisions, and reflective thinking makes up a large part of it. Make your past experiences the sandstone to sharpen your future decisions.

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