The Things We Know Best

“The things we know best are things we haven’t been taught.”

—Luc de Clapiers, 18th Century Marquis de Vauvenargues

My first career, fresh out of college, was as a teacher. It was my belief at the time that it was my job to literally pour my knowledge of life science into the minds of 25 sixth grade students. What I discovered was that very little got in, and even less of my brilliant lessons stuck for more than a week or two.

One of my fascinations over the years, and particularly since I began my career in coaching, is what some call the “stickiness” factor. It turns out that most of life’s greatest and enduring lessons occur through experiential learning, in which the student is fully engaged, even lost, in their own inquiry.

EXERCISE:

What areas of personal or professional development are you and others in your world most open, interested, and excited about? How can you structure a deep and meaningful learning experience in these areas?

If You Are Irritated

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

-Rumi, 13th Century Persian Poet

Image from Flickr by Orbital Joe

Image from Flickr by Orbital Joe

When was the last time you visited a fine jewelry store? Imagine yourself in one, examining all the beautiful diamonds and gem stones.

I am sure that If you were to go back in time to when these stones were pulled form the earth, you wouldn’t recognize them. They would be dull, rough, and unremarkable. It takes considerable rubbing and skilled cutting to bring out their brilliance.

EXERCISE:

How and where can you examine and appreciate the daily rubs of life as experiences and resources to bring about your personal and professional brilliance?

Choices Reflect Your Hopes

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

-Nelson Mandela

image from www.cbc.ca

image from www.cbc.ca

There are two primary schools of thought regarding what spurs people into action. The first is what I call the “avoiding pain” strategy, in which people examine the bad things that may occur if they don’t take action. Some sales methods take advantage of this approach by turning up the level of pain in order to compel people to buy a product or service.

The alternative strategy, suggested in Nelson Mandela’s statement, could be called the “pleasure strategy.” Here, a compelling and hopeful objective mobilizes us to choose certain actions and behaviors that will help us realize our desirable future.

EXERCISE:

What will you do to make the majority of your life choices—personally and professionally—from a more hopeful perspective?

The Foolish Man

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.”

-James Oppenheim, American poet, novelist, and editor

QC #914

I am currently reading The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama. His teaching indicates that the purpose of life is to be happy.

Foolishly, many people pursue their happiness through extrinsic factors. Although many of these pursuits can result in pleasurable moments, rarely do they produce enduring or sustainable happiness. Wise people, on the other hand, have learned over the years that intrinsic factors much closer to home are the source of a meaningful and more enduring form of happiness.

EXERCISE:

How can you increase your own personal happiness by embracing more factors that lie right under your feet, and far fewer in the distance?

Changing Us

“Sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us.”

—Author Unknown

Image from Flickr by Sebastien Wiertz

Image from Flickr by Sebastien Wiertz

A topic that comes up fairly frequently in my coaching sessions these days is aging. As someone in the middle of the Baby Boom Generation, I see that most of my contemporaries are also experiencing the “grayification” of our society. We’re dealing with aging parents and our own health and fitness related issues.

Despite all of our best efforts to eat better, exercise more, and get much-needed rest to renew and recharge, we are heading toward an entropy of life, where things begin to break down and stop working optimally.

There happens to be a new form of coaching called “Eldering.” One of its tenets is to assist people in navigating these years with more grace, dignity, and life mastery.

EXERCISE:

How can you adjust, adapt, or change yourself in relationship to those issues and situations that are unchangeable, to more fully experience a life of greater happiness and fulfillment?

Thorn of Experience

“One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.”

—James Russell Lowell, 20th Century American poet, critic, and diplomat

Image from Flickr by Taro Taylor

Image from Flickr by Taro Taylor

Perhaps the single most significant reason the coaching profession has grown to over a $2 billion industry is the fact that it focuses a great degree on experiential learning. Although there is still a substantial value in telling and showing, it seems the stickiness and sustainability of the lesson comes from experiencing things firsthand, where we actually get on the field, run a few plays, and see what happens.

EXERCISE:

Where and how can you include far more experiential learning opportunities to help you progress even further in your life?

“Sometimes, you just have to…”

“Sometimes, you just have to bow your head, say a prayer, and weather the storm.”

—Author Unknown

Image from Flickr by Melinda Swinford

Image from Flickr by Melinda Swinford

In recent weeks, I’ve met a number of people experiencing significant challenges in their professional and personal worlds. They were knocked down and kept down by death, illness, accidents, and other major life events. For some, many of these things were happening at the same time.

Those who weather the storms the best all mentioned that it was their faith, family, and friends that made these disturbing and often tragic life events bearable.

EXERCISE:

Where can you seek for yourself—or offer to others—a level of support to more successfully weather the storms of life?

“Your best teacher…”

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.”

—Ralph Nader, American political activist

Image from bentleymasterminds.com

Image from bentleymasterminds.com

I’d like to alter Nader’s quote by changing the word “mistake” to “experience.”

Perhaps one of the reasons the coaching profession has grown so rapidly over the last two decades is that it takes place on the field of our lives through experiential learning.

It is our own self-awareness and self-reflection regarding the experience of our mistakes, setbacks, progress, and victories that can be our most brilliant teachers.

EXERCISE:

Take five minutes at the end of the day today to examine what worked, what didn’t, and why. What did you learn? What new and different actions will you take based on these lessons?

“Answers are closed rooms…”

“Answers are closed rooms; and questions are open doors that invite us in.”

—Nancy Willard – American novelist and poet

image from sanfranciscoaudiophilesociety.com

image from sanfranciscoaudiophilesociety.com

Much of our current educational system has focused on students getting the correct answer. How else will you earn a perfect score on tests, the ACT and SAT exams, get into a good college or university, and achieve success?  And whose definition of success is it?

A more recent form of education tends to be far more focused on inquiry and experience-based learning. In this method, powerful questions open many different doors, inviting the learner to be an integral part of the educational process.

EXERCISE:

Identify a handful of powerful questions that will engage people more fully, professionally and personally. Share them with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Consider visiting the work of Michael Bungay Stainer, and many of his professional colleagues at http://www.boxofcrayons.biz/category/best-question/. There, you will discover some engaging and provocative questions to open more doors in your life.

“A mind that is stretched by a new…”

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, American physician & poet

Photo from Flickr by Moyan Brenn

Photo from Flickr by Moyan Brenn

My trip to Europe last month was definitely a mind stretcher. Relatively unaware of this region of the world, I was somewhat embarrassed by my ignorance of the languages, customs, architecture, and of course, history.

Seeing the churches, castles, cities, towns, villages, and of course the people, made me realize that I am a not-so-worldly citizen with much to learn. I also now can see that both my roots and Wendy’s were formed to a good degree through the lives of previous generations of our families, who came from Europe.

EXERCISE:

What new experiences have you had recently, or are about to experience in the next month or so? How can and will you make the most of these mind-stretching opportunities?