Learning from experience 3: Reflect on your learning


I spent my weekend in Italy together with Alsu, more specifically on the lake Como in the north of Italy – close to the Swiss border. This is a place of exceptional beauty – almost too much, so that you practically get overwhelmed – and I can imagine that in less popular times it was an excellent place for reflection.

In Griante, the city we stayed in, there is a church perched on top of the hillside called San Martino. I haven’t yet been able to learn much about the actual church but it seemed to me to be the place where you would retreat, take long walks about the mountain and reflect on your experiences.

The past years has been mostly relentless learning for me – wether it was teaching in China, leading a team or trying to deal with poor leadership within my companies or organizations. Last spring I had many possible paths to choose but in the end I went for one that gave me more time for myself, rather than engaging in a wide range of new activities. This leads me to the fird and final behaviour for learning from experience:

Reflect on your learning – how far you’ve come and what you have achieved, think about your goals and motivations and try to put the experiences in context – try to understand what happened and why. Without this behaviour, which involves both having calmer years and 10 minutes of reflection on the bus – you won’t be able to process your learning and turn it into new realizations and behaviours.

A way to introduce this habit is to look at your next 6 months say and see where you will have the opportunity for major impacting experiences – be it travels, new job roles or conferences. Then plan already now in your calendar one or more days of reflection after this experience. Also set a side one or two days during the winter holidays to look back at your 6 months and try to get an overview over all the experiences and how they impacted you.

The second step would be to also recognize that each day brings with a unique experience and that a daily reflection practice is of great use – and as this is something I am still working on having in my life I will get back to that topic later.

This sums it up for my three behaviours to make the most from your experiences. Remember to make time for all of these three activities – Discovery, Experimentation and Reflection. Without one piece of the puzzle the picture isn’t as good as it could be.

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