You’ve probably heard the saying about history and how it repeats itself if we don’t learn from it. The quote is from the philosopher George Santayana and, while it has been adapted in many forms, it originally went as follows:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
I would expand on what Santayana said, because while remembering is a necessary first step, in order for experience to teach us, we need to reflect and evaluate.
Experience as Teacher: 5 Keys to Open the Door
1. Evaluation is a lifelong tool that’s useful and empowering in many situations.
New Year’s is a typical time when people reflect, assess and plan – looking back and then looking ahead. In much the same way, evaluating ANYTHING – a project you’re involved with, a course you develop, or a challenging situation you experience is important and useful. Be concrete about your evaluations, too. That helps you assimilate and apply them in the future.
2. No experience is too small! Anything in your life benefits from assessment.
Regardless of the size or significance of an experience or situation, it is revealing to look back at what you chose to do. Learning occurs from this time of reflection. This process becomes automatic with practice. First you participate, and then you evaluate.
3. By reflecting on parts of an experience or event, you gain specific understanding.
Don’t simply evaluate the totality of a situation or the end result. The whole is the sum of the parts. So, it’s very enlightening to observe each piece, along with the connections between pieces.
4. Collect all the information you need prior to taking time to reflect and evaluate.
This might include preparatory notes, various drafts, your list of objectives, calendars, and anything else pertinent to your review and assessment. As you survey each area, list what went well and what was challenging. Being concrete really helps. And to solidify your learning, you can jot down specific ideas that will increase your effectiveness in the future.
You might also create a template as a time-saver. Record not only the objective material, but also your feelings that accompany it. Feelings always hold a LOT of information!
5. Evaluation and learning from your experience is a value – a way of living your life.
As you incorporate this process into your life, you will learn to give and accept feedback in a neutral, non-judgmental way – because you are doing it with yourself!
The more frequently you evaluate, the more automatic it becomes – and the more subtleties emerge and offer themselves for your learning. Developing the process of evaluation teaches skills of observation that enhance your life. These skills, then, generalize out to create a rich and varied tapestry.
Here’s to your time success!