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Apr 18

Learning Curve of Life

Why are our minds so curious?  What is it about our experiences that draw us back into looking at them further?  You might say it is human nature.

The ability to reflect provides an opportunity for learning.  It is a stimulant for growth.  It offers an invitation to visit places we have been before but are not intended to live in.  An insider view, if you will, of what the possibilities were, in order to increase our awareness for the next time.

Given that our experiences shape our values and beliefs, reflecting on them is worthwhile.  Reflection offers the ability to cultivate who we are and how we impact others.  The Japanese call this practice Kaizen, indicating change for the better.

The practice of reflection is noted as an attribute of high performing individuals.  It is intended to improve performance and assist with establishing goals.  Adding this practice to your daily life can do just that!

So, how do you reflect and refine?  For some individuals, this is natural and instinctive.  For others, it needs to be deliberate.  Either way, taking the time to do so can only contribute to the learning curve of life.

One of the questions I ask clients when meeting with them is what they see as their contribution to the circumstance.  Ask yourself how often you stop and think about that.  Knowing we cannot change the past, we are instructed to learn from our experiences.  In turn, when presented with similar circumstances at another point in time, we can respond in a more learned way.

Let’s get started.

First, make and take the time to reflect.  Reflecting can be a solo practice or one shared with others.  You may reflect with colleagues in order to improve work performance.  Reflecting with your spouse regularly on parenting decisions can be valuable.

Think about your own experience growing up with your family.  Are there perspectives you have, values instilled and beliefs adopted that contribute to how you choose to parent today?  Of course there are!  These parental discussions can be of great benefit in parenting our own children.

Some individuals take time to reflect in the shower at the end of a long day.  Others do so while enjoying their coffee in the morning.  Journaling can be a preferred way to document our hindsight as well as note progress.  Ideally, allow this time to be free of interruption.

When looking back, try to focus and put yourself back in the experience.  Utilize your senses to gain knowledge on what you were thinking and feeling during the experience.  Ask yourself what was positive about the experience and what was negative.

Second, how does the experience line up with your values and beliefs?  When we reflect, we are reminded of our values and beliefs.  Notice if you change your opinion over time.  Experiences shape our opinions.

This conscious effort to think about events helps to connect our experience to our desire moving forward.  Values become a primary topic of discussion in helping mediate family conflict.  I suggest that their time with me will be more effective if they have some level of insight and awareness.

Third, balance acknowledgment of your experience with how others may have experienced you.  Differentiating and naming what is happening for you as well as how you land on others impacts relationships.  It influences how we manage our behavior for the next exchange.

Don’t be afraid to ask others for feedback with the goal of improving yourself.  Feedback should be focused on the problem, not the person.  Seeking clarity will improve your performance. When educating clients on effective communication in relationships, I speak of the three “C’s”.   Be Curious, seek Clarity and Close the conversation in such a way that all parties feel heard.

After looking back, thinking and feeling in depth, learning about yourself and others, it is now time to make a plan for next time.  Evaluate what worked and what did not in order to change the outcome when you are faced with similar circumstances.  Integrate new ideas, change and growth.  Taking these steps will allow reflecting to evolve into a purposeful practice.

Aside from the practice itself, there are many fringe benefits.  It can improve our teaching of others and career paths.  Reflecting has been shown to reduce stress and helps us cope with change.  It provides us with the capacity to foster reconciliation and mediate fractured relationships.  It improves human relationships.  In today’s world, what could be more meaningful and significant than that?