While the two of you have spent the better part of your first two decades of life in school, the reality is that an educational institution is not your best source for learning. There is one source that is infinitely better and more important than any school on the planet–and yet it is the one most people ignore.
Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Yale can’t compete. Even better, this primary source of learning is virtually free. It’s costs you only time. Yet, it’s not a true cost because the value you receive from this source of learning more than compensates for any time invested.
You don’t need a professor or a classroom—or even a textbook—to take advantage of this source of learning. You don’t need to wait for a semester to begin or to even worry about whether you’ll be able to register for this class this semester :-).
All you need is your brain, some time, and a place to record your thoughts. That’s it! So what is this absolute best source of learning? It’s the time you take to evaluate your experience.
And therein is the problem. Most people go through life, from experience to experience, and rarely ever stop to evaluate that experience—which is why most people get stuck doing the same things the same way—over and over again!
They hope that something will change. They hope that something will get better for them. They hope that their “luck” will improve. But hope is not a strategy. It’s a great attitude and faith principle, but it is a terrible strategy for life.
Which is why I want to encourage the two of you to get in the habit of evaluating your experience EVERY DAY!
You don’t have to write it out (or type it out), but I’d highly recommend that you do. In fact, this is a great thing to do in a journal. Whether you do it first thing in the morning (where you evaluate yesterday) or toward the end of the day (where you evaluate that day) is irrelevant. Do what works for you. But whatever you do, just make sure you do it regularly!
So, here’s what I’d recommend (on paper, in a journal, on a computer, or on an iPad). Answer these five questions. Note: The following questions are intentionally short so that you’ll be able to memorize and remember them without having to revisit this post over and over again.
1. What worked?
2. What didn’t?
3. What did I learn?
4. What could I do differently?
5. What will I do differently?
Let’s go back and revieweach of these for a moment.
1. What worked? You want to start here for a moment of celebration. What did you do that you’re proud of? It could be a work deal or a relational item. It could be that you chose not to buy something that you wanted to (an impulse purchase) because you’re trying to save up for something more important. Or it could be that you achieved a goal or did a hard workout. Etc.
This step is critical because most people never take enough time to ascribe value to what they’ve done. So, don’t be one of time. Take time every day to say, as God did in Genesis 1, “This was good.”
2. What didn’t? Question two is critical because question two is where you force yourself to confront something that didn’t go according to plan. Maybe you did buy that impulse purchase (and sabotaged your savings). Maybe you didn’t manage your time or emotions well. Maybe you didn’t stay focused on the work at hand. Maybe your procrastinated. Maybe you were selfish and didn’t give someone the time they needed. Maybe you promised yourself that you were going to do something (like work out) and didn’t (and instead watched TV and ate ice cream).
If you don’t take the time to write that down, chance are very high that you’ll do the same thing over and over and over again.
3. What did I learn? What a great question to ask yourself every day. I think Nido asks himself that question every evening before he heads to bed. And remember, learning doesn’t have to be from something you read. It could be something from a conversation or a movie or from something you observed someone else do, etc.
Furthermore, even though experiences are typically categorized as one of three things—positive, neutral or negative—the good news about learning is that we can learn from all three. In fact, some of the best learning comes from our negative experiences (or the negative experiences of others)
4. What could I do differently? This is the brainstorming question in your evaluation time. This is the question where you ponder different outcomes. This is where you try to optimize your results. This is where you create the potential for tomorrow to be a better day.
5. What will I do differently? While question four creates the potential for change, question five is the change. In light of everything above, you need to decide, “How will I ensure that today will be a better day than yesterday and that I won’t recreate the mistakes I made then?” That’s it. Five simple questions.
So go grab a piece of paper or your journal and start a new habit. Every day you want to get in the habit of evaluating your experience (which can be your greatest teacher–if you let it be) so that you can avoid the trap that so many people fall into—that is, the trap of repeating yesterday over and over again.
Don’t let that be you!