Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Learning from Experience - The 5 Magic Questions

Yes, people learn best from experience. But the truth is, not all experiences result in learning. Most of the time, people go from one event in their lives to another without learning a thing.

So what makes the difference? What is the magic that transforms an everyday event into a lesson learned? The key is to reflect on what happened. Research has shown that adults learn from an experience when they think about it afterwards.

How should you think about it? Well, it's not that complicated. Here's what I've been telling people for the past 30 years. When something significant happens to you, whether it's a success or a shortfall, the most powerful way to go from an experience to an insight to a better experience in the future is to ask yourself these five questions, in roughly this sequence... 

1. What happened? Who did what? What was the sequence of events?

2. Why did it happen that way? Cause and effect? Your motives? What helped or hindered?

3. What were the consequences? Outcomes? Benefits? Costs? Problems? Resolutions?

4. What would you do differently in the future? What lessons did you learn? What basic principles?

5. What are your next steps? Goal? Planned action? What support do you need?

Better yet, don't just think about these questions. Write your answers on a sheet of paper. Or type them into a text document. Writing while thinking makes for better thinking. Also, you can save what you write and refer to it later.

There we go again, improving our lives by thinking about the way we think. I told you metacognition was cool!

1 comment:

Yolanda said...

This was very good information. Thank you for sharing.