“Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” —Hal Borland
When a new year starts or a birthday comes and goes, most of us spend at least a few minutes thinking about the year that just passed. We look at the news headlines that tell us whether this was a good year or bad year. We evaluate our personal and professional lives: Did I achieve my goals? Am I closer to my dreams? Did I do what I intended for my family and career? Are my finances in better shape? Am I healthier physically?
An important question we often miss is, “What wisdom did I gain during this past year?”
Ancient cultures valued wisdom. They revered their elders who had gained learnings from life experiences and others. Younger people went to these Wise Ones for advice and counsel. They aspired to be wise like them when they got older. In ancient times, how much wealth you acquired or the goals you achieved was not honored nearly as highly as how much wisdom you expressed.
Compare that to today’s modern Western culture: Most younger people look at elders as old fogeys who are “out of date.” Our culture supports the notion that hip and trendy thinking, cutting edge technologies, and new scientific discoveries are more important than time-tested wisdom that is profound and lasting. We can operate the latest iPhone and rap along with Kanye West. But as years pass, we don’t feel any wiser, even though all of us have the same opportunity to gain wisdom.
No matter what our different circumstances, we’re essentially all sitting in the same class: the class of life. In this class, we’re all presented with experiences that are exciting and fun, and others that are tough and painful. We all have challenges to face and decisions to make. To me, life is all about learning and growing. Every good, bad or neutral experience is an opportunity to learn something about ourselves or our world. It’s an opportunity to expand our knowledge and our understanding. Every day, this classroom of life invites us to become more than who we thought we were the day before.
But just like in other classrooms, I’ve noticed that some students are avid learners of life and others not so much. The non-learners just enjoy the good times and cope with the bad times then keep moving forward. They might congratulate themselves or beat themselves up over what happened but they miss the lessons along the way. On the other hand, avid learners milk every experience for all the insight they can get out of it. They make their lives fuller and transform themselves with everything life throws at them. These are the ones who gain wisdom.
Maybe you’re one of those people who hasn’t appreciated the opportunities to learn from every experience life has offered. If so, I invite you to try a new approach using the suggestions below:
It’s all feedback. Rather than thinking of experiences in terms of whether you failed or succeeded, won or lost, did something right or wrong, think of each experience as a set up meant to give you valuable feedback.
For example, say you lost an important client: What can you learn from that? If this incident was specifically designed to give you constructive criticism, what is it? Next time, what might you do differently? If this event was set up to give you more insight into others, what is that insight?
Or what if you just won a huge account? What can you learn from that experience? Did you step further out of your comfort zone, follow up more quickly or listen more carefully? If you had to list the ingredients of that interaction that caused it to end successfully, what were they? Let your positive experiences add to your wisdom as well.
By the way, life’s lessons won’t sound like “I’m just a loser” or “People can’t be trusted.” Life’s lessons may ask you to step up your game but they won’t belittle you or others. They might say “Hmmm. It would be good to pay more attention to detail” or “I could communicate more clearly with future clients.” True life lessons are positive and contribute to your expansion.
Step outside to see clearly. Think about it: When a co-worker comes to you with a challenge, isn’t it easier to see what they may need to do or change to meet that challenge than challenges that are your own? If a friend has just had a huge win, isn’t it clear what led them to that success, whether it’s their actions or intrinsic qualities? If your child had a problem or an area of frustration, wouldn’t you have some feedback to help them get on the right track?
Try this: The next time something happens that catches your attention, imagine that it’s happening as a movie. Be the audience watching yourself go through that experience and ask, “What does he or she need to learn from this? What understanding does this incident have to offer? How can they use this new learning to enhance their life?”
Tap the wisdom that is waiting. Through Huna and the work I do with Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), I’ve come to realize that we all have wisdom that is available to tap at any time. Whether it’s the intelligence of our unconscious minds or the knowing of Higher Self, this resource is available for our use—we just have to learn to tap into it.
How? Meditation is always helpful. By quieting the chatter of our thinking, we naturally hear those deeper insights and truths. Some of my students take a particular experience into meditation and ask, “What is the truth of this situation?” They then sit in silence and allow the learnings to appear. Others imagine that they are speaking to their older and wiser selves who, looking back from the future, can clearly see the valuable lessons they were given.
As you look back on the past year, I invite you to pause and gather the learnings and wisdom from all that happened. Use these to enhance and expand your life.
“If you realize you aren't so wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you're wiser today.”
— Olin Miller
To your TOTAL empowerment!
Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free special report, Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know to Achieve Your Goals. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at info@Huna.com or visit his blog at www.DrMatt.com.