Learning from your past

Man sitting at a table in the form of a clock

In times of change we may need to take decisions based on little data and without knowing how things are going to turn out. The better we can do this, the more we will avoid getting stuck and the more energy we will have to move forward.

Chapters 1-3 already identified several tools and techniques that we can use. Chapter 4 adds four. The second of these is about learning from our past.

Using hindsight to look at times in our past where things didn’t turn out the way we expected teaches us more than the times we got it right. Remember Thomas Edison tried thousands of ways to make a light bulb before he found one that worked. He saw each attempt not as a ‘failure’ but as another successful step towards the outcome he wanted.

Think of a time in your life when you made a decision that didn’t turn out the way you expected. Then ask yourself:

  1. What choice did you make? What did you expect would happen? What actually happened?
  2. What lesson did you teach yourself at the time? Using the tools of Chapter 2, would you now see that as a misinterpretation, a mis-blink?
  3. What alternative explanations or lessons are possible? Which seems more likely?
  4. What other opportunities might you have chosen instead: to ignore, leave, fix, improve, or transform the situation or your leadership?
  5. Knowing this, would you still take the same decision?

If you would take the same decision again then you know that you can trust the choice you make today, even if things don’t turn out the way you expect.

If you would take a different decision then you can again trust the choice you make today because you have learned from your experience. And you know that even if this choice turns out differently from how you expect, you will be able to learn again.

Either way, the best thing to do is to avoid getting stuck and instead choose the way forward that is best for you now and act on it.

Think of a time in the past when you made a decision that didn’t turn out the way you expected. Answer the questions above. What lessons do you learn?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Markus Binzegger via StockPholio.net

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