From Second-Hand Knowledge to First-Hand Experience

Chitra Chaturvedi

Chitra Chaturvedi

A consultant at Vyaktitva who enjoys working with other Vyaktis and Saansthas to help with transformation as a trainer, coach and OD facilitator. With decades of experience in the field of developing people capability in one form or another, she enjoys deep conversations on individual journeys with everyone. She enjoys reading all kinds of books and listening to music - particularly old Bollywood songs, and spending time with her new love - meditation.

“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

Worms ate up thousands of books but did not receive a certificate of erudition. Similarly, we could learn from various modes about how important it is to be more empathetic, patient, responsive, peaceful, confident, disciplined, accepting and with an appreciation of these concepts or virtues, that we need to inculcate. We start off on our transformational journey. We do succeed in small measures – either in terms of duration or depth, but soon hit a road block and are helpless – Now what? Now where?

Like any other transformational, executive or life coach, I have also vicariously lived about 50 mini-lives simultaneously in the last 5 years. And the all too familiar laments that I hear, more sooner than later, are:

  • Oh no I have made the same mistake again! When will I learn?
  • I am not happy with the speed of progress I have made…it is very slow.
  • How do I take my journey deeper and higher?
  • I keep facing the same situation again and again, why am I not learning from my mistakes?
  • You helped me answer what I need to change today, but what next?

In experiences with self and others who played along with me, the answer is simple – deep, meditative reflection. Really, it is there in our DNA – just not with this lens and woefully inadequate. There is no denying the fact that humans from time immemorial have reflected. We can all surely recall days when we discussed the happenings of the day with family or friends around the dining table, or between games while playing tennis, while preparing for the new year or for a critical presentation. We only need to nurture and use this reflective muscle with a twist and a turn that will lead to a desirable Vyaktitva. In my experience, reflection is the most critical cog in the wheel of transformation.

Reflection helps us convert second hand knowledge to first- hand experience and helps us exploit our potential. In today’s world knowledge is free but intermingling knowledge with our context makes all the difference. And makes the new package of knowledge + context invaluable for growth.

Reflection also helps us know ourselves deeply. We can identify our limiting patterns of thinking, emotional reactivity and behavioural tendencies and use our awareness to set off on an exciting journey of transformation.

Our transformational needs and goals change as we progress in our lives and along with that our so-called wisdom also grows. We want to know who we are and move to what we should be or like to be. Reflection is the one vehicle that takes us on this infinite journey.

All we need to do is create the will to reflect every day. And what better way to strengthen the will power than just doing the task repeatedly. So all you need to do is set aside a fixed time – in my experience, first thing in the morning is the best time for obvious reasons. It is also a good idea to put pen to paper while reflecting. The clarity it brings is amazing.

Let me elucidate the power of reflection in the context of real world. One of my protégée was struggling with a project that had members from a cross-functional team. At the start of the project there was no apparent resistance to the plan that was shared, and everything seemed hunky dory. However, during execution there was numerous instances of the team not meeting commitments. The success of the project was in jeopardy. During the project he used the power of reflection to change the way he was managing the project. A couple of his learnings during the reflection that helped him bring the project back on track were: there were higher chances of commitments being met if the team could walk alternate paths together to arrive at a decision, communication should be more detailed – the obvious may need to be stated at times so that all team members are on the same page.

Reflection is about thinking, and to start this process ask yourself questions. Questions truly help our brains think. The reflection process should center around the habit/trait/virtue or vice that we would like to acquire or drop. Some powerful questions that can be used during reflection are:

  • During the critical incident that happened yesterday, did I live up to my plan? Am I satisfied with the outcomes? What makes me dis-satisfied? What are my feelings around it? Why did I do what I did?
  • Having reflected on yesterday, what should I now do differently? Do I see some of my fears / vulnerabilities / judgments surface? Can I use my insights to create a mantra for the future?
  • Is there a larger application to my insights? In which other aspect of my life can I apply this?

And now what do we now hear ourselves saying in delight:

  • Yay! I did it differently this time.
  • Helps us learn from mistakes.
  • Wow! I am creative. Helps creativity and innovation.
  • I do think I am my favourite person. Helps us love yourselves and also be happier.
  • This too shall pass. Helps us deal with stress by strengthening the ability to look at multiple viewing points.
  • Oh! Is that really me. Helps us know ourselves deeper and better.
  • I think I can help you. Helps us transfer our knowledge to others.

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