Reflecting and learning
Saturday, 18th December 2010 1 Comment
I believe that it’s important to learn whatever you can from every situation you face; I don’t expect that this is a controversial opinion. One of my theories on life is that there is a “syllabus” of lessons life wants to teach every one of us, and each one of us has different lessons on that syllabus. Life presents opportunities for you to learn each lesson by putting you in situations from which you should learn; if you fail to learn lesson A from situation 1, life will present you with another situation where the lesson can be learnt, and will keep on doing so until you learn from your mistakes. So it’s always made sense to me to reflect on every situation in order not to make the same mistakes again, and to learn the lessons at the earliest possible opportunity.
In the middle of November, after I’d mentioned that this blog provided me with an opportunity to reflect on things I might have learnt, Jon Harman had a suggestion for me:
He said that every three to six months, creating a mindmap to show what you’d learnt was useful for making the learning process conscious. Having had a telephone interview this week the result of which didn’t go my way, I thought it was an opportune moment to do my first reflective mindmap.
So it turns out that recently I’ve learnt a few things, and had a few things that I already knew reinforced. The importance of preparation has been highlighted, not only from the perspective of preparing for a particular eventuality, but also mentally preparing for all eventualities, even those you cannot comprehend. This is something I obviously knew already, but I had forgotten the need to expect the unexpected. On a separate note, I’ve also learnt to scrutinise all of my past interviews for old mistakes before new ones – things that you learnt a while ago are easily forgotten if you don’t make the effort to recall them.
Jon mentioned that it might be useful to identify things I’d learnt through both formal and informal learning. Informal learning is a fascinating concept to me – the acceptance that non-academic learning never stops. Whether you are in formal education or not, there is no shortage of lessons to be learnt either from situations in your own life or from observing others. I’ve always counted my ability to reflect on life as one of my strengths. Sometimes it causes me problems, and I over-analyse and get myself into trouble, but most of the time it’s an invaluable skill that helps me to acquire wisdom (no laughing, those who know me – I do have some of that tucked away somewhere).
One of the things I like to think I know is myself, which may sound a bit odd, but simply means that I think I have a good level of self-awareness. This manifests itself in a number of ways, one tangible example of which is the way I responded to the suggestion Jon made and that you saw earlier on. Three to six months does sound like a reasonable interval for these mind maps. The trouble for me with leaving it that long, though, is that it doesn’t take account of my memory, which is akin to a colander. So knowing myself as I do, I have decided to note lessons down more often than that.
To me, this is a lesson in and of itself, and one of the most important to learn. As Polonius says in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To thine own self be true”. For all of the lessons I’ve learnt recently, in both a formal and an informal context, it is a lesson that I learnt long ago that is at the heart of it all.