Experiential Learning

A lot of my posts this year have been about making choices, trying new things and following through. Recently I had the chance to experience the results of a pretty deliberate choice that I made. I had to go against a lot that had been engrained in me since childhood and also through adulthood. Going off the beaten path of what was expected and doing my own thing. I’ve always wondered what life is like for those who adhere to a specific set of values and morals all their life without even considering that other people live by other sets of morals and are completely fine. Some people have a need to learn by experience. They don’t want to take any one else’s opinion because they want to know for themselves. I think I’m one of those people. While I can fully agree with vicariously learning in order to avoid life altering pitfalls, there’s something to be said about having a personal experience. Many times we can be so quick to take someone else’s word for it without being willing to investigate it ourselves. In my opinion, nothing good ever comes from taking someone’s opinion as truth without critically thinking about it for yourself. There’s a quote I read not too long ago that said “Question everything.” In the world we live in, thinking is essential. In addition to that, the ability to see things though a different perspective can serve as a conduit for new experiences and opportunities that others miss. 

What could be

During my work career I’ve worked with the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. One common theme is that many of them have regrets. These regrets range from something as significant as getting married to something as trivial as having dessert before their actual meal. Many of my patients would talk for hours about what they wished could have been. They wanted a different life but reality and circumstances interfered with their plans. Even though I’m decades younger I still think about how my life could’ve been different if I had made different decisions. While I’m not extremely disappointed in my decisions up to this point, I could probably be at a different place in my life if I made other decisions. More recently I’ve found myself asking this question once again. It’s not a regret and I would call it a wish of sorts. I wish that although the world is small it was a bit smaller in a way that would allow me to pursue an opportunity. I’m not usually extremely disappointed in missed opportunities because it’s a part of the human experience and I am usually able to put that information in perspective. I guess this opportunity was different because it really felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity without any chance of it reappearing again. It’s almost as if fate has a mind of its own. Circumstances keep us from what we would truly want in an ideal existence. But that’s not the world we live in. Our lives aren’t perfect and we don’t live in a happily ever after movie. Sometimes we won’t be able to capitalize on opportunities regardless of how much we want to. I think those kind of disappointments are the kind that stay with you for years after the actual event. They color your world and you wouldn’t be who you are without them. Fate is fate and sometimes that can’t be changed.

Learning and Mentors

It’s often suggested that when you start a new endeavor or begin in a field you’re not familiar with that you find a mentor. The point of this is to learn from them as you learn the ropes. These types of people are especially valuable when faced with unfamiliar situations. It’s easy to be paralyzed by fear instead of moving forward. I remember there was a playground contraption when I was a kid called monkey bars. The whole point was to move across only using momentum and your arms. Truthfully I struggled a lot with going all the way across. I would move to a few bars and then would hit a mental or physical block that prevented me from going even further. However, If anyone held my ankles while I moved across the bars I could always finish. A mentor can be a guide as you navigate though a new experience and is usually a good resource. I was recently in a position where I had to seek out a mentor of sorts. While the task wasn’t something that typically requires a mentor of sorts, I wanted someone who could both give advice and coach as I was in unfamiliar territory. The person had to be patient but also have the necessary experience I needed in order to learn from them in the most effective manner. I’ve learned that many times a hands on approach can be the most efficient way to learn because of the experiential aspect and the fact that it’s not a lecture of sorts. It’s a real lived experience that has memorable value. In my case, the person I chose was multi-talented and had both the educational knowledge and the experimental knowledge combined with the trait of patience. This created an optimal learning environment and served as a confirmation that the choice I made was the right one.