Three Ways to Boost Your Ability to Learn From Experience

emotional intelligence Apr 27, 2024

Experience is the best teacher.  You have heard these words before, right? But the truth is, we don’t always learn from our encounters with life’s opportunities.

How often do we repeat the same errors or enjoy our wins without digging into the how and why? I'm right there with you.

Learning opportunities are sneaky; they come when you least expect them, and I must confess, I don’t always grab them.

I'm always eager to learn, I tell myself.  Indeed, I follow all of the latest studies, explore thought-provoking reads, and welcome in-depth discussions of issues. 

Yet, simultaneously, I can gloss over the growth opportunities right under my nose.

The hang-up lies in my hesitation to confront what I might unearth by looking too closely at myself. It often comes down to a subtle sense of my sometimes too-fragile ego.

When things go well, I want to relish the moment. I don’t want to probe beneath the surface to uncover the factors contributing to my achievements.

I merely wish to celebrate.

Taking time to understand success means acknowledging the role of chance or the help I had along the way. In my more rational moments, I fully recognize that my success is due to more than my hard work and self-reliance. However, in the moment, admitting that I didn’t earn it all by myself is sobering.

Now, dissecting downfalls? I don’t wish to wallow in the details of what I did wrong.  However, perhaps dissecting failure isn’t about grieving my foolish mistakes. 

Maybe if I reframe failure, I will learn more willingly.

How about I congratulate myself on taking a risk, trying something new, and giving it my all? Then, perhaps I can seize the opportunity to learn from the experience to become more resilient.

To make progress, looking squarely at both triumphs and setbacks is essential. Here are a few thoughts I've found helpful:

  1. The idea that success comes purely from individual effort overly simplifies the complexity of how we arrive at our outcomes. It's curious how we embrace this bootstrap myth when things go our way but dismiss it when they don't. If we are to learn, we must take on the complexity!
  2. If every mistake is seen as a personal fault, it might stop us from venturing into areas that cause us some apprehension. Yet, we are most likely to learn when we are uncomfortable. When we stretch ourselves, we wander into those spaces where growth can happen.
  3. The ability to recover and learn sets the stage for success. We develop the resilience to thrive sustainably by accepting life's highs and lows and extracting wisdom from each.

Reflecting on my own experiences is eye-opening. These insights help guide my daily actions and remind me that personal growth should never stop. Learning is not a passive process. It requires courage and intention. 

So sit back, relax, and think about what life has to teach you.  




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