Here are two “revelations” about experience that everyone should consider.
1. The worst thing about experience is that you have to live through things to get it and that can sometimes be painful.
2. The best thing about experience is that once you've got it, no one can take it away from you.
Experience is really nothing more than learning gained through encountering situations in the course of life. If you can arrange or encounter enough different situations, survive the mistakes that arise from trial and error—and learn from them—experience will have been gained. Of course, how the situations turn out makes a lot of difference in what kind of learning occurs—positive (“do that again”)—or negative (“don’t do that again”).
Unfortunately, the old cliché, "you learn from experience" often is just not true. As Peter Senge points out in his classic book The Fifth Discipline, causes and effects are frequently too far separated in time and circumstances. When this happens, you can’t (or don’t) relate the cause to the effect, and thus you don’t learn from that experience. When no learning takes place, you repeat your mistakes until, or unless, you learn from them. Then experience will have been gained.
Another experienced consultant and educator in the field of organizational and human behavior taught me this important point about learning: Real learning only happens when you take the time and make the effort to reflect on what happened. Reflection is the conscious act of considering the circumstances, what occurred and then trying to decide why that outcome resulted. It is the process of searching for this answer that creates learning.
In life, the way you gain experience and the experience you gain does not always apply to the problems you’ll face in your future—either in a job, a career or difficult situations. To make matters worse, circumstances are constantly changing. This fact can make experience you’ve already gained less useful, potentially inappropriate and/or sometimes downright wrong. This is why I always say: “Never Stop Learning!”
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Many people fear change or, at the very least, are very anxious about change. They resist change and attempt to maintain the status quo. Truly effective, successful people seek and savor change. They enjoy it because they realize that with change comes opportunity. Not changing is often a bigger risk than attempting to adapt to change.
The right kind of experience can not only make you more comfortable with change, but also teach you how to embrace change and capitalize on it. One of the typical negative reactions to the onset of change is to worry. To worry about something is natural and yet wasteful. In order to see the waste in worry, take a sheet of paper and write all the things you are worried about right now. Use circles or check marks to identify all those that will be resolved because you worried about them. None? Yes, that’s the correct answer.
No problems ever get resolved by worry (but, they can be made worse). Only a positive attitude followed by considered thought, planning and action will resolve problems. So, the next time you start to worry about change, stop it. Sit down and think about what you can do about it. If there is something, do it. If there isn’t, quit worrying.
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