Welcome to the third post in the series breaking down Scott Dinsmore´s epic TED Talk “How to find and Do Work You Love”. Previously,we covered strengths, weaknesses and values. This time, it’s Learning from Your Experiences.
Ever thought… What makes you you?
What makes you different from your brother or sister?
Or why you think in a certain way?
The short answer: Your experiences.
Sorry, no. Not your experiences.
How you’ve used your unique experiences. Now that’s what makes you you.
Our experiences, and what we learn from them define who we are, and navigate us through life’s tantalisingly unchartered waters.
The question we’ve got to be asking ourselves is…
“Are our experiences taking us in the right direction?”
Or do we drag them behind us like a ten-ton anchor?
With our experiences, we have an INCREDIBLE tool we can harness to become our ideal-self, and live the life we dream of.
How do we do that?
Friends, it’s time to experience the awesome experience of experiences.
Tool? Harness? Experiences? What you talkin’ bout Willis?
Ok, definition please.
An experience: something that happens to you that affects how you feel.
So an experience is … well, anything. Any event that happens to you in your life.
Not just the sweaty-palm-inducing, adrenaline-fuelled, or heart-wrenching stuff. Everything goes – from the awe-inspiring, to the everyday ordinary. Taking the dog for a walk, getting chased by wolves, talking to the cashier at the supermarket… Everything counts.
Ok, why are we discussing this?
I’m highlighting that life is a never-ending supply of experiences. If we use each experience as fuel for our guzzling self-development engines, then boy, we’ve got ourselves a pretty sweet gig.
“But, how do I use each experience as fuel for my guzzling self-development engine?!?”
Patience young grasshopper.
How To Use Your Experiences to Take Yourself to the Next Level
Let’s run through types of experiences, and how we can use them.
The Ultimate Experience: FAILURE. (Nothing like a bit of caps.)
“Wait, what?! Did he just… failure… the best…? What?”
Yup. In terms of self-development fuel, failure is our absolute most valuable experience. But sadly, people like to hate on failure.
In today’s society, failure is THE WORST THING EVER.
It’s horrible, it’s something that successful people never have, and should be avoided at all cost.
Man, we’re missing a trick here. Failure is AWESOME. And we need to learn to love it. And embrace it.
I like to think life is like snowboarding. If you’re failing, and falling over, then you’re doing mighty fine. It means you’re improving, and it means you’re growing stronger. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.
Failure means that:
- You’ve tried something new.
- You’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone.
- You’ve made an effort.
- You’re growing.
And with failure, we get an incredible parting gift – the key to growing stronger. An area in which we can grow, and become the strongest versions of ourselves.
Let’s learn to make the most out of failure.
If you fail, reflect on the experience, and ask yourself these questions;
“What did I fail to do?” / “What didn’t work out?”
“Why did I fail?” “Why didn’t it work out?”
“What does this teach me about my current-self?”
“What has this shown that I need to work on?”
Every time you fail, you learn something invaluable about yourself that illuminates the next step to your ideal self. How powerful is this?!
Instead of something horrible, our failures are life’s precious gifts that reveal something about ourselves that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
You’re supposed to fail!
Ok, some examples.
Say me and my girlfriend break up. One wanted to move in with the other, while the other wanted to live apart. I.e, one wanted to take the relationship further, and the other didn’t.
So, the questions.
“What didn’t work out?” We didn’t want the same things from the relationship, so it ended up being a failure.
“Why didn’t it work out?” Well, we weren’t on the same page from the beginning. We had different ideas about where it was going.
Ok. “What does this teach me about my current self?” Well, I didn’t communicate what I wanted. I wasn’t open from the beginning. I held things back about how I truly felt.
BINGO. The gift of failure has been delivered. Yes, the relationship failed, but congratulations! I know I need to be more open, more honest, communicate better, and hold nothing back.
Sweet. I know which character traits I can work on to become a more awesome individual.
Another example – getting crap marks at university.
I’ve just scraped a pass for one of my courses.
For me, that’s a “failure”.
So. “What didn’t work out?” – I didn’t get good enough marks throughout the year to get a good mark.
“Why didn’t you get good enough marks throughout the year?” –I could moan about how the course was freakin’ difficult, and the instructor was terrible, but that would be lying to myself.
I didn’t keep up with the work consistently because I slacked off at the start of term, which led to miserable mid-course assignments. Also, I hated the professor, and had a mind-set of “me vs. the prof.” which was of course, ridiculously counter-productive.
“What does this teach me about myself?” I need to start small, and get into a kick-ass routine BEFORE starting new courses. I was disorganised, and failed to plan and read ahead for lectures, so a 30-day challenge of reading ahead for lectures wouldn’t go a miss.
I’m stubborn, and make enemies out of people who are trying to help. The failure has taught me I need to become more humble, and see people for the loveable and helpful souls that they are.
Finally, flatmates. I had a flatmate who smoked weed, didn’t clean up and had the complete opposite schedule as I did. I’d be getting up at 5am, and he’d be going to bed at 5am. This caused friction between us. It sucked at the time, but I’m so thankful for the incredible experience.
- There was friction because we didn’t communicate what we wanted. (We eventually did discuss our schedules, and we got on much better.)
- We should’ve discussed buying cleaning supplies, music, schedules and all that stuff at the
- I should’ve had the balls to say something at the start, rather than just being nice.
Action steps: Always communicate with flatmates. Dive into the heart of the issue, rather than skirt around it. Stop being “nice”.
So. Failures = Awesome. Use ‘em for all their worth.
Experiences that Make you Feel Uncomfortable.
You know that feeling of doubt you get when you’re thinking about doing something scary? Or that feeling of awkwardness you get while doing something?
When you’re squirming cos your outside your comfort zone?
These experiences are absolute golddust.
As soon as you experience doubt, your body is telling you, “Just go for it!”
In the wise words of Elliott Hulse;
If it’s not scary, it’s not worth doing.
And what happens if you do it regardless of doubt? You grow. You exercise courage. You’ll be able to sleep well at night, knowing that you’ve followed the direction of your dreams.
As for experiences with awkwardness, and fear, and doubt? These aren’t negative emotional experiences.
These emotions illuminate the road to becoming the strongest version of yourself.
Perhaps you’re talking to a stranger during a networking event.
Does it feel awkward? Are you feeling doubt about approaching others? Yes.
And that means that you’re exactly where you need to be.
Use these experiences as a compass to guide you to the experiences that will make you grow stronger. Doubt and fear are a sign that you’re on the right track.
Let’s look at another emotion. Guilt.
Is guilt a negative emotion? Hell no! It’s awesome!
It’s telling you – “Hey dude, you’re not living up to your own expectations. Would your ideal-self have done XYZ?”
For example, when I see a familiar face, and I don’t have the courage to go up and speak to them, I feel guilty.
If I don’t train for triathlon, I feel guilty.
If I’m not challenging myself, I feel guilty.
What can I learn from these experiences? Well, I know that exactly what my ideal-self would be doing in these situations. I know that my ideal-self would speak to everyone, train as hard as possible, and constantly challenge myself.
Guilt, and the experiences with them, are helpful reminders of how awesome the situation could be, and gives me a heads-up to what I should be doing next time to live up to my ideal-self.
Guilt, we salute you.
So, the next time you experience a negative emotion, like fear, doubt, awkwardness, or guilt, see these for the incredible tools that they are. Use them, and learn from them what your ideal-self would do.
“What would my ideal-self do in this situation?”
By using this approach, you can use the most every-day experiences as grow-stronger fuel.
You see an empty bottle lying on the pavement. Would your ideal-self pick it up? Yes. Why didn’t you? Fear of looking stupid. Area to work on: Not caring what other people think of you.
There’s a gorgeous girl/guy in the queue behind you. Would your ideal-self speak to them? Yes. Why didn’t you? Wasn’t courageous enough. Area to work on: Courage – going ahead in the face of doubt.
What a technique!
Also, analyse your experiences to identify your destructive or positive habits.
Maybe every Friday night you stuff your face with chocolate and peanut butter. Well played bud, you’ve failed in your commitment to eat healthy.
Ask yourself why it always happens on Friday night.
“Hmm, well, I’m always bored on Friday night after a busy week.”
Ahh, so you’re eating for a hit of pleasure. This experience has taught you what you need to change in your approach.
You need to experience pleasure in other ways.
Go out with friends. Invite people over for dinner. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Engross yourself in a good book. Go to the gym. Get a massage. Whatever.
Failure is not negative. It’s merely a sign that you need to change your approach.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”Thomas Edison, inventing lightbulb.
Personally, I know that if I train and workout, then I’ll be disciplined and WANT to eat clean and study. However, if I leave training till late in the day, I’ll find an excuse to skip it. And when I skip it, I’ll eat stuff to give me the pleasure boost that a workout would’ve given me, then I feel crap, and I get stuck in an unproductive slump for the rest of the day.
From my failings, I’ve learned that if I train, the entire day goes perfectly.
So, I make it my mission to train as soon as I get up. It takes out the hassle, and sets up the rest of the day.
Ok, this sounds pretty useful. How do I go about reflecting and learning from my experiences?
I thought you’d never ask.
Firstly, simply be aware of how valuable your experiences are.
You’ll gradually adopt a reflective mindset.
For a kick-start approach for a more reflective mindset, here’s an idea that’s helped me from “Awaken The Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins.
In it, he suggests asking yourself a set of morning and evening “power questions”.
“What am I happy about right now? “
“What am I enjoying in my life right now?”
“What am I proud of in my life right now?”
“What am I committed to in my life right now?”
“What am I excited about in my life right now?”
“What am I grateful for in my life right now?”
“Who do I love? Who loves me?”
“What have I given today?”
“What did I learn today?”
“How did I improve myself by 1% today?”
“If the same things happened tomorrow, what would I do differently?”
Be aware of the value of experiences, and get in the habit of questioning yourself.
After every experience, ask yourself, “What has this got to teach me?”
Another option is journaling.
It’s incredible how many of the “great minds” kept a regular journal.
How about taking time out every Sunday to review your week’s experiences? What can you learn from them? What would you do differently next time?
Takeaway: Using your Experiences to become stronger.
- Use Failure to grow. Let it teach you about yourself. Ask “Why did I fail?” “What is it showing me about improving myself?”
- Use your “negative” emotional experiences as a compass. Doubt and fear = a good experience, that your ideal self would do. “What would my ideal-self do in this situation?”
- Use your experiences to identify destructive/productive habits. “Why does this keep happening?” “What can I switch up?” “What works well?”
And remember, always be asking yourself;
“What is this experience telling me about myself?”
Give Anthony Robbins’ morning or evening power questions a go – they certainly have proved effective for me.
Or try starting a weekly reflection journal.
Let me know your thoughts on the facebook page, and get thinking of your next 30-day challenge starting October!
Love you all,
Cover photo: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/72491194@N04/6873452591″>Sparks</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
“Awaken The Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins