Learning From the Past Takes Participation in the Present


Learning From the Past Takes Participation in the Present

In business learning from the past means breaking out of circular thinking to make empowered and valuable decisions in the present.

Recently I was watching a TV series from the ’90s, and I found myself observing both the storyline and character development in different ways than what I had done in the past. This got me thinking about how I recontextualise my experiences in different ways.

I have learned that the knowledge and wisdom I have gained are part of a dynamic and fluid process that can involve shifts in perspective. My interpretation of an event can change over time as I gain new experiences that alter my understanding and perspective.

What was then and is not now.

I would like to share four observations I have made from examining the way I interpret and perceive my past experiences.   

1. Learning is dynamic.

My learning is a dynamic and changing process, and recent experiences will influence my interpretation of past events. Through realising this, I can liberate myself from thinking in static terms that may limit me in both my professional and personal life. 

In regards to my professional life, this frees me from the trap of thinking that if I repeat the same success or failure again that the results will be exactly the same. I can use my new interpretations to adjust previous decisions to what I am currently doing.

2. The past was then and is not now.

I need to be careful to not romanticise the past. As new experiences open up my interpretations of the past, I need to keep in mind the context of both my current and past experiences. 

Through analysing and remembering the context of a past experience and recognizing that these exact circumstances will never be precisely replicated, I can increase my perspective on my current situation. 

I can avoid one-dimensional thinking where I interpret certain business decisions as either being peak experiences or completely negative ones.

Having this understanding of perspective can assist me in making decisions that impact my work. I can use the wisdom I gain from this to assess if I should be replicating a process under the new context or if I should be trying something new.

3. Step off the merry-go-round.

If I am not careful, I can get caught in circular thinking and go round and round and round. Overthinking the past can also be a risk where I analyse and assess my experiences too much and not apply what I have learned. If I impose some boundaries and limits on this, I can create a framework for decision-making and taking action.

In a work context, I do this by giving myself timeframes for contemplation. I have also engaged in different models of decision making to help me break out of my circular thinking.

4. Apply the learning.

It is not just the actual learning that I have gained that is important but also how I apply this learning. There is no right way to apply my learning, as unique circumstances call for different approaches. What this means for me on a professional level is remembering to be both flexible in my decision making while also drawing upon my past experiences.

Remembering what I have done in the past and applying it under my new context gives me some wisdom to apply to my choices.

Learning from the past takes participation in the present.

In summary, if my learning from the past is going to have relevance for me, I need to remember that this relevance is generated by making active decisions in the present. It is important for me to remember that everything I do is in the present moment, even if my thoughts and emotions are reflecting on past experiences, good or bad. 

As I explore both past and current circumstances surrounding the experiences I have had, I can open my mind up to be able to apply my new recontextualized learning in ways that will benefit me. 

Remember that both your positive and negative experiences are not just opportunities for learning but also your pathways to wisdom. And the ability to analyse your current contexts gives you the skills for more powerful decision making.

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