What have you learned about yourself recently? Self-awareness is crucial to be able to live the life you want to live. But for a business leader, who’s moving from one essential task to the next, processing and internalising those life lessons doesn’t come easy.
In fact, it can be difficult to learn new things as an adult, full stop. Life has a habit of getting in the way, preventing us from finding the time to increase our knowledge and awareness.
In the case of business leaders, it’s not so much that we’re denying ourselves an environment in which to learn – we’re constantly having to find answers to new problems. It’s that we’re not affording ourselves the time to reflect on those experiences, so that we can learn and grow from them.
It can be uncomfortable to have to engage with and process your actions, especially if you feel like they’ve contributed to a mistake or failure. But, that’s a perfectly normal reaction to have. Fear of failure is very common in adults. None of us want to admit to a mistake, but you can come back stronger from the experience, as long as you reflect on what went wrong. In other words, learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
As Diana Mugano, a writer of motivational and financial self-help reads, puts it in her book ‘Relentless Mode’: “Learning from experiences is one of the ways in which we decide to cultivate more of what we like about ourselves as opposed to just randomly accepting every way in which we react.”
So, how can you learn from your experiences? Here are four ways you can go about it:
Create the time to reflect
More than anything else, you need to dedicate some time just for thinking. It might not feel like a very ‘you’ thing to do, but it’ll give you a better understanding of who you are. We’re only talking once a week – or at the end of each day, if you find it brings some clarity and peace to your thoughts.
Schedule this regular thinking time like you would a meeting – that way you can just escape the clutter, without letting day-to-day tasks get in the way of your moments of reflection. Reflect on experiences good and bad, asking yourself questions such as:
· How successful was I?
· What would I change if I was to do it again?
· What lessons can I take away from the experience?
Develop a growth mindset
A great deal of your ability to grow and learn from your experiences depends on whether you possess a fixed or growth mindset. A fixed mindset limits your capacity to emerge stronger from your mistakes, as it’s based on the belief that your qualities are carved in stone, therefore failure is the limit of your abilities.
Somebody with a growth mindset, however, believes that failure is an opportunity to grow. So, when things don’t go quite to plan, rather than burying the experience, people with a growth mindset seek constructive feedback on how to ensure a better experience next time.
There are some great books on developing a growth mindset – none better than Matthew Syed’s ‘Black Box Thinking’.
Teach others what you’ve learned
As per the old Latin principle Docendo discimus, by teaching, we learn. There’s no better way to process and retain the lessons learned from an experience than to pass on your knowledge and understanding to others.
Whether you’re succeeding or failing in business, you’re picking up crucial experience, which, if properly reflected upon, can be spun into business advice for other leaders.
As you might have already seen in some of our other blogs, Agnentis believes that communities are key to business leaders achieving happiness and success. Sharing your experiences with other leaders is not only therapeutic, it could yield meaningful, value-adding relationships.
Speak to someone objective
Sometimes, no matter how much reflection you do, you can’t decide whether an experience was successful or not, which makes learning from it difficult. You might share the experience with family or friends – but they will be inclined to reassure you that you did a great job, even if that wasn’t the case. Their bias is very admirable, but it’s not productive to your growth.
It pays to speak to someone objective. Somebody who can see the business and the experience through your eyes, but can step back and give considered and insightful feedback when needed.
Partnering with the right mentor or coach, who is going through the same challenges as you are, can make you feel like you’re not only bouncing back from mistakes – you’re growing stronger from them.