Learning from our past

Man sitting at a table in the form of a clock

A time of change pushes us to take decisions without knowing how things are going to turn out. If we’re uncomfortable doing this, we can easily get stuck.

There are several approaches we can use to push past this. One of these is to learn from our past, especially to learn from a time when things didn’t turn out the way we wanted.

Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. Before he succeeded he tried thousands of approaches that didn’t work. He saw each attempt not as a ‘failure’ but as another successful step towards getting the outcome he wanted:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

To apply this wisdom in your own life, think back to a time when you made a decision that didn’t turn out the way you wanted.

Then ask yourself:

  1. What choice did I make? What did I expect would happen? What actually happened?
  2. What lesson did I teach myself at the time: did I see it as a “failure” or as something else? Using the tools of Chapter 2, would I now see this as a mis-blink?
  3. What alternative lessons or interpretations are also possible?
  4. What other options might might I have followed, to ignore, leave, fix, improve, or transform the situation?
  5. Knowing all this, would I still make the same decision?

If you would still make the same decision 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 make a different choice then you know that you can still trust the choice you make today, because you have learned from the experience and if necessary you can learn from it again.

The important thing is to increase your ability to make the best choice for you now, even under conditions of uncertainty.

Think of one to three times when you made an important decision. Did you have lots of information to help you predict how things were going to turn out or were you able to make a decision under uncertainty? In the future, will you need to increase or reduce your ability to make decisions under uncertainty? How are you going to achieve that?


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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