Gaining Value from Experiences

This episode is the final instalment in the “Planning and Decision Making” Series. Links to earlier podcasts can be found at the bottom of the page.

In Short:

Big decision are rarely big decisions. They’re a series of micro-decisions leading you towards a big one, followed by a series of micro-decisions leading you to achieve the goal associated with the ‘big’ decision.

Every time you make a micro-decision and take the actions associated with it, something happens and every time something happens, you get more information. Learning how to use that information to make future decisions easier is a great way to move towards creating your ‘big happy life’

In this episode, we explore 3 ‘rules’ for using this information.

  1. Pay attention
  2. Never let a mistake go unused
  3. Be honest with yourself (but put down the stick)

In Detail:

Every little decision makes a difference on the way to making big things happen in our lives. Some make a big difference, others make very little difference but they all have some effect. Our ability to use each experience as productively as possible increases the likelihood of success but, possibly more importantly, makes the actual process more interesting, valuable and enjoyable.

In this episode, I explore 3 ways to use your experiences as well as possible.

  1. Pay Attention

Most of us think we pay attention to all the information available to us but we simply haven’t got the capacity to pay attention to everything so we pay selective attention.

When we’re making decisions that alter the course of our lives in some way (arguably, all decisions do this but let’s not get too philosophical!) the things we notice will be determined by our beliefs, fears, hopes – things generated within us – but we’re often charting new territory when we make big decisions so we have to learn to pay attention to things that challenge our beliefs, help us move past our fears and help us work out how best to proceed.

The most valuable trait to develop at this stage is curiosity. Since curiosity and judgement can’t direct your thoughts simultaneously, being curious helps you ask great questions instead of passing judgement on what/who is good or bad. Curiosity allows you to explore things as they are and question what to do with that information.

For example:

When do you do your best thinking? When are you most productive? What makes it possible for you to do that? How are your hopes and fears impacting your choices? Which is stronger – hopes or fears? What actions get the best results? What actions get the worst results? What are the differences?

More curiosity = more questions = better quality information = stronger basis for next decision on the road towards your goal.

What effect do emotions have on attention?

Emotions play an enormous role in our ability to pay attention – so much so that a podcast series devoted to this subject will follow early next year. Two main things happen to attention when strong emotions are at play.

They reduce our ability to pay attention and they change our perception of those things we pay attention to.

Our ability to pay attention – in such a way that we can make conscious use of the information available to us – is reduced. Imagine a car alarm going off outside your house at 3am. All you notice is the car alarm. You don’t notice the dog barking a few houses away or the sound of your footsteps on the floor as you make your way to the window. The same happens with big emotions. They create so much noise they drown out a lot of what’s happening around you. When you’re taking actions that heighten your fear, cause you stress or make you euphoric or excited, be aware that your attention will be narrowed. In these cases, it’s a good idea to make a conscious effort to notice as much of what’s happening as possible – without judgement. Avoid making decisions during these times, just observe. When the emotion has passed, consider your observations and how you might interpret this information.

It is useful to record your observations on a video or in a journal so you can refer back to them as your memory of the events may change as time passes.

Simply observing and recording information allows you to review it from a different vantage point later and notice how your perception has changed. This often helps inform the next decision you need to make.

2. Never let a mistake go unused

We’re hard-wired to feel the effects of our mistakes more dramatically than we feel the effects of our successes. As a result, we tend to protect ourselves against making mistakes and, when things inevitably go wrong, our instinct is to work out a way to avoid such a thing ever happening again.

Rarely do we sit down, completely open minded and think, “Huh. That’s really interesting. What part did I play in ending up here? What part did others play? What were the ‘good intentions’ behind our actions? (Every action is achieving something – even though it may be counter-intuitive) What’s the best way for me to use this experience to shape my next choice?

This is particularly important in situations where you’ve risked something important to you and it hasn’t worked out. The ability to make sense of the whole situation in all its messy glory provides much more value than taking a protective stance or getting stuck in loops where revisit the old situation and berate yourself or others for the outcome.

3. Be honest with yourself but put down the stick

Most big goals are a lot more difficult to achieve than we originally think they will be and it’s easy to judge ourselves when we lose momentum, get stuck or do something that doesn’t work in our favour.

In much the same way as we explore our mistakes, it’s useful to take a reflective approach to understanding ourselves and our motivations for doing certain things.

As an example, I am currently working to turn Big Happy Life into a business offering amazing content to people who want to take their lives to the next level. To get this kind of business off the ground, many would argue I need to work 20 hour days and, even then, I’m looking at years to get it moving. Yet I often find myself sitting in front of the TV by 9pm and going to bed by 10pm. If I start saying “I’m so lazy. I procrastinate all the time” and other similar things, I gain very little. Instead I could benefit from considering:

  • Do I want to change this behaviour?
  • If yes, what is the reason?
  • If no, what is the reason?
  • What am I gaining by sitting in front of the TV for the last hour of the evening?
  • What am I losing by sitting in front of the TV for the last hour of the evening?

Once we realise there aren’t “right” and “wrong” answers and that the most important thing is to figure out what works for us and why, we end up creating habits and practices that serve us really well and make the process of achieving our goals far more enjoyable.

So What?

Better quality thinking leads to better quality actions. Our actions shape our habits and outcomes so there’s massive benefit to be had from using every experience as productively as possible to inform your next choice and action.

It’s also massively freeing to accept that things go wrong and you can still move forward.

An Opportunity

If you’re someone with big ambitions and a desire to take your life to the next level but you’re not always sure how to do that, read on.

In preparation for the launch of the Big Happy Life 2019 Masterclass launch, I’m offering 8 people the opportunity to have one-to-one calls with me to discuss your goals and aspirations, the challenges your experiencing and what you’d love advice or help with. From there, I’ll create the 2019 Masterclass content and enlist experts to share their advice with you.

To be considered for one of the 8 places, click here to leave your details.

Everyone who applies will receive a voucher for a free Masterclass in 2019. You’ll be able to select any one of the 12 courses (a new course launches each month) and access all the amazing content within it for free!

The window of opportunity is short on this one – you only have until 31 December to apply so do it now if you’d like the chance to have a free coaching call, a masterclass created especially to answer your questions and a chance to access that masterclass for free. Here’s that link again: Make me a Masterclass.

Earlier Podcasts in the Decision and Planning Series:

Episode 11 – Are there good and bad decisions?

Episode 12 – How your motivation determines your actions

Episode 13 – Planning for Success



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