It is my firm believe that we can learn from any experience we have in life. From simple things, like when you drop an apple on the floor, it’s very likely a brown spot will appear after some time, to more complicated experiences, like having a burnout.
It’s built in our system to learn from experiences. Otherwise we would not be able to walk, speak, survive. I believe it’s also built in our system the desire to make meaning out of experiences. And when we do, it enhances our happiness and well-being. Did you ever meet someone that experienced some sort of crisis in their lives, that said “looking back, it was the best thing that happened to me.” Do you have similar experiences in your life?
When I’m working with groups, I invite them to (for them) weird experiences, like laughing for no reason, dancing and moving, playing active games, etc. They seem to have no relation at all to their workenvironment. However, when I invite them to reflect on the experience by asking “What just happened?” “How does it feel?” and “How does this experience relate to your work?” it’s amazing what meaningful insights come to the surface.
Kolb described this proces of making meaning in his Experiential Learning Cycle.
First you have an experience (you drop an apple), then you reflect upon the experience by asking questions like “What happened?” (the apple dropped, I see a dark spot appearing). This results into an insight like when I drop an apple, it will bruce. The action that comes from this insight, is perhaps be more careful handling apples.
These same learningquestions can be applied to daily experiences, either positive or negative, either simple or complex.
Questions that will help you are:
What just happened?
How does it make me feel?
What did I do?
What did the other person do (next)?
What can I learn from this?
How can I apply this insight?
What options do I have?
What will I do next time?
What action can I take now?
Good luck and I wish you many meaningful experiences and learning.