Now that the book is off most of the spring semester around U.S. higher education, with some faculty in research and writing mode and others being sent to summer courses (or both), this might just be a good time to think about what to do next year. I grew up in reflection, for my students while I was still teaching, for the faculty I now work with, and for post-burnout.
But we often only think about how things went last year or last semester, what (un) succeeded, and where we need to change the direction of our work next year. Of course useful retreat, but are we going far enough? Are we giving ourselves the opportunity to move away from the practical and strategic aspects of how we align our work with our values and meet goals that go beyond productivity? To dig deeper into what makes us present, employed and alive in our work and life?
Earlier in this blog, Brandi Simula wrote about prosperity in terms of what it means to improve the academy and how to protect that good. “The notion of progress does not mean that we are happy in every moment of the day, or that everything or even most of our lives are going well. Instead, being prosperous means connecting with a sense of purpose, experiencing self-acceptance and personal growth, and We are able to build our strength and resilience on an ongoing basis, even in challenging situations. ” But how do we know that we are actually improving in the face of so much uplift, especially in the world around us? An easy way is to study extremely short flooring scales. But it only gives you a numerical score, not self-knowledge.
Since writing Quick Faculty: Practical strategies for conducting research, services and teaching (2017, University of Chicago Press), and then facing significant, life-changing burnouts, I came to think about introspection and deep reflection as important to my career but also my self-knowledge and mental health. Not that I have to plan the next book or faculty development workshop, which is fun in and of itself, but I benefit, to align my work, my life, my health, values, activities and myself from this time.
How do you reflect this?
One common tool that has been re-used for reflection is the ubiquitous SWOT analysis created in the management culture of the 1960s. The short term stands for strength, weakness, opportunity and threat. Although in some cases a useful tool, vulnerabilities and threats can be fed into a culture of higher ad competition in a way that can exacerbate stress, eposter syndrome, and perfectionism. Not particularly helpful outside of the culture of academic capitalism, even if adapted as a personal reflection.
Instead of SWOT, I offer SOAR analysis. Like SWOT, the SOAR framework is a two-by-two grid that divides into two sections: Power And Opportunity. Instead of focusing on vulnerabilities and threats, SOAR looks Desire And the result, though in my version, I like to think about Resources Instead of results.
When applying these categories to your reflective activity, they can combine two areas of focus: energy and resources about the present and the present, where aspirations and opportunities are possible, goals, aspirations, creating a coherent reflection. To build
Consider these questions when using SOAR as a tool for introspection and reflection:
- Power – What is your greatest strength? Do you easily do things that others find appealing? Where do you excel? When are you most likely to find a busy or flowing state? What are your proudest achievements?
- Opportunity – Do you know or care about that you can stretch? Can there be any gaps where your unique perspective can add knowledge? What possibilities exist for a fruitful partnership? Could there be a threat that could turn into an opportunity?
- Desire – What is your most meaningful goal? What will be the future success? Which way do you want to make a difference? What do you know or do most inspire?
- Resources – Do you already have the tools, knowledge and strategies that you can use to pursue your opportunities and aspirations? Can you call extra resources? Who will be able to support you in your endeavors?
Think about yourself as you complete your reflective SOAR analysis; Exercise doesn’t have to be all about work and career. What are your SOARs for your life, family, welfare, community service?
In my next post, we will develop the practice of reflection by thinking about values, incorporating the insights of my interview with Drs. Katie Linder, Lindsay Masland and Kat Denial in my podcast, Accelerated academic.
Rebecca Pope-Ruerk is the director of the Faculty Professional Development Office at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He’s the host Accelerated academic Podcast for Higher Ed Women, and her upcoming book, Unveiling Faculty Burnout: The Path to Calculation and Renewal, Will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press in September 2022.