Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Reflect on this: how to learn from experience
How many times have you said to someone, ‘Well, you live and learn, don’t you?’ A lot of the time it’s true – we do avoid unpleasant situations or seek out pleasurable ones as a result of past experiences. When you’re in a work context, though, driven by targets, budgets and timescales, it can be hard to take a step back to reflect, evaluate and learn.
In your work life just as in your personal life, it’s important to occasionally pause and see the bigger picture. As humans, we’re programmed to learn from success rather than failure as we find the process of revisiting past mistakes difficult. Unfortunately, as humans we’re also intrinsically lazy, and if we once think we’ve found the winning formula we tend to repeat it until it doesn’t win any more, rather than adapting to circumstances. In order to stay successful, it’s important to learn from both our successes and our failures.
Rather than asking ‘did this work or fail?’, we should be asking ‘why did it work or fail?’ As fundraisers in an often-difficult environment, we need to constantly adapt to make sure that today’s success will also translate to tomorrow’s success. There’s also a key difference between learning from success, which is an active process, and simply enjoying success, which can lead to complacency.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology detailed two companies of soldiers in the Israel Defence Forces, who were reviewed for their performance on navigation exercises. One group discussed only their mistakes and how to correct them. The second company focused on what could be learned from both their successes and failures. Although both groups learnt, soldiers who discussed both successes and failures learned at higher rates than those who discussed just failures.
Learning from both our successes and our failures depends on two things – having the time to reflect on the result and identify areas for discussion, and establishing a culture of communication and adaptability.
If you’d like to know more about the power of reflection, and learning from success and failure join a group of amazing fundraisers at November’s Transformational Fundraising Group in Manchester or Nantwich, Cheshire. Alternatively, email Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 07775 681050 to discuss one to one coaching or mentoring.