If Experience Isn’t the Best Teacher, What Is?


John Maxwell says that experience isn’t the best teacher… evaluated experience is. Every day I learn something new but until I evaluate what I learn, I won’t change because of what I learned. Yes… sometimes evaluation is a painful process but so is not changing.

I’ve never spoken so publicly about my evaluated experiences but as you’ll understand by reading this, it’s part of my goal for the next year. Here are a few of my most important learnings from last year…

1 – Pain is temporary. The length of suffering is my choice.

Unfortunately, my brothers and I haven’t been getting along these last few years. I’ve been told I’m hard to live with, that everyone walks on eggshells around me, I’m the cause of all the problems, and I need counseling. These comments cut like a knife and cause pain. They don’t understand it’s a wound that goes deep… deep to where I question my worth, my value, my place in this family.

The world tells me I don’t measure up; I don’t need it from my family. Their comments are temporary… painful… but I relive them every day and THAT is suffering. It’s suffering I’m continually bringing on myself. Others may cause the pain but we causing the suffering. My brothers have moved on but I haven’t, and until I truly forgive them and permanently let it go, I will have suffering. Unfortunately, letting go is not that simple, Elsa…

2 – Mindfulness is the key to joy.

We can live 3 places: the past, the future, or the present. The key to joyful living is to live in the present. To live in the present is to practice mindfulness. Through reading, I’ve learned there are three states of mind: reasonable mind, emotional mind, and wise mind. Reasonable mind is the functioning, task-driven, productivity part of our brain where emotions aren’t important. Emotional mind is where your heart is in control and your feelings rule your behavior. Wise mind is the mixture we want to strive for where we lead with our heads but validate with our hearts.

For years, I’ve taken up residence in my reasonable mind and unknowingly ignored my emotional mind. (I’ll blame that on corporate America.) About every six months I visited my emotional mind where our trips were explosive, a combination of anger and tears. I’m trying to practice the art of the What and How of living in the present moment so I can reside in a wise mind. I believe by intentionally tapping into my emotional mind will help me achieve this. My goal is to reflect this in my speaking and writing. My hope is that you’ll realize less task-driven posts and more emotionally rich posts.

3 – It’s not about my agenda.

This past year was filled with new coaching opportunities for me. What I learned could fill 20 posts! But the number one take-away revolves around who owns the agenda. There were some situations where I pushed my agenda, which is a dangerous place to be in the true definition of coaching. In some situations, it was helpful and in others it wasn’t the right direction.

Towards the end of the year, I changed the method of my coaching conversations to ensure my client’s highest need was being attended to. My gift is in taking a wide view of the situation and offering additional options. My downfall is when I attach myself as an owner of these options. My goal is to help my clients see the situation from different perspectives, help them generate potential paths, and then support them in their own choice of options.

4 – Recognize the life cycle of a relationship.

There is a cycle of life in relationships and it’s taken me awhile to accept it. Relationships begin. Relationships end. Lately, it seems like the scales are imbalanced where I’m ending more relationships than beginning. But as I recount my relationships, it may just seem that way because it’s more painful for me to end a relationship than begin one. Relationships have dissolved over the last year for a number of reasons: our values don’t align anymore, superficial-ness, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, the lack of authenticity.

I want relationships based upon shared values, authenticity, accountability, collaboration, significance, and mutual vulnerability. This is the foundation I build relationships on… one-on-one relationships and couple relationships. I want true friends who I can be real with when life gets messy. If someone can’t/doesn’t respect that foundation, the relationship has a much shorter life cycle and I’m learning to be OK with that.

5 – Grace for the race.

For Christmas, my husband gave me a bracelet with the inscription “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” He knows I’m not satisfied with myself until I’m running 26.2 miles in 16 seconds. Whether it be growing my business, spending quality time with my kids, investing in my marriage, reaching my fitness and financial goals, or simply completing daily tasks, I need to remember I’m training for a marathon. I’m hard on myself when I don’t see the quick progress I expect so I’m learning to handle myself with a softer heart… more grace. I’m learning to forgive my shortcomings, yield to perfection, and revel in down time.

We all have life experiences that mold and shape who we are becoming but are we being molded how we want to be? What experiences do you need to evaluate to become what you’re intending to be?

As always, if something here has resonated with you, please share it with someone! I welcome your comments below where the conversation is even sweeter.