Wouldn’t it be great if we actually did get wiser as time passes? However, I don’t experience that learning, or new insights or wisdom even, is an automatic function of life being lived and time passing. As far as I can tell from my own experience, learning and new insights need to be sifted out of day-to-day experiences much as early gold prospectors sifted grit and dirt for the bits of gold they craved.
Have you ever wondered how extraordinary our lives, our organizations and our society would be if we had, as a natural human way of being, a craving to learn, to grow, to be a better version of ourselves, our organizations and our society as each day, week and month passes?
Some people seem to do just that – they grow in stature, in competencies and in wisdom over time. I know people, not headliners mostly, just people who are clearly sifting life for its gold.
I meet them mostly through my work as an executive coach and consultant. I get to see them first as business people, people focused on making the part of the organization they are accountable for more closely aligned with their vision and intentions. But I also get to know them through the larger dimensions of their lives – as musicians, athletes, parents, hobbyists of all stripes, and members of their communities. In each aspect of their lives what I mostly see are committed people striving – striving to make today a better version of all their yesterdays.
What do we know that works?
- Reflection works – stopping every now and then to pause and take stock – where we are going, what are we up to, what are we striving for, what are we trying to make happen, who are we striving to be...
- Observation works – being conscious about what is happening. It is so easy to operate out of habit, on automatic pilot, that a lot goes by that we don't see
- Being non-judgmental works – stuff happens! However, labeling it good/bad, right/wrong, should be/shouldn't be and so on, or being upset with what happens doesn't work as a learning step
- Discernment works – being able to sort out the gold from the grit really works. Scientists run experiments. In the process they have lots of failed experiments. The point of experimenting in the first place is to discover what works. By discerning what works we can now consciously and deliberately replicate it, we can show others what works – we have expanded our conscious competence. With hindsight we will also discover what did not work, what was missing that had it been in place we would have had a different outcome, or what was present and in the way we need to remove so as to have the desired outcome
- Practices work – Practices, being who you say you want to be. And practice doing what you say you want to do. Practice not so you will remember, practice so you can’t forget