I’ve enjoyed reading my colleagues’ previous posts on their personal journeys of growth at RK&A—Stephanie’s realization that learning is circular, Emily’s thoughts about the messiness of project communication, Erin’s growth in questioning and active listening, and Amanda’s musings on balancing the needs of systematic evaluation with visitor experience. It is invigorating and inspiring to hear about how others have learned from their work at RK&A because much of what they say resonates with my experiences and makes explicit some of the feelings that have been simmering in my subconscious. However, as I sat down to write this post, and as I’ve thought about my path as a young museum evaluation professional, I was reminded of how hard personal and professional reflection can be.
Interestingly, despite how hard reflection can feel for me, reflecting on one’s work and goals is at the heart of the work we do with our clients. At the beginning of a project, whether during a planning meeting or in a workshop, we ask clients to think about and discuss what they care deeply about, what their strengths are, and their intentions for their visitors, program participants, community members, and so on. The conversations are always challenging and stimulating because they require everyone to slow down and reflect on why they are doing their work. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of daily tasks and deadlines it easy to lose site of larger goals and get off course.
Busyness is one major obstacle to reflection, but I don’t think that is the only reason reflection is difficult. Reflection can be intimidating. It asks you to sit with your thoughts, think critically about yourself (or your work), and question what your goals are and whether your actions are aligned to move you toward meeting your goals. Does what you are doing (your everyday actions) align with why you are doing it (your ultimate goal, or as Randi likes to say, “To what end?”)? These questions are challenging, take time to fully consider, and can be uncomfortable when they surface fears of failure or insecurity, or when you realize you may need to change what you are doing and move outside your comfort zone.
Ultimately, I know that reflection is worth my time and discomfort because I’ve seen it in action with our clients. Reflection allows our clients, and me, to learn from past experiences, to identify blind spots or gaps between actions and desired outcomes, and creates an intentional path forward. While it may not always be easy, I look forward to continuing to push myself (and our clients) toward more reflective practice in the future.