Everyone would agree that we can learn from our life experiences. And everyone does.
But while we all have experiences every day, have you noticed that some people seem to glean far more from those experiences than others?
If you would like to better harvest the lessons from your experiences, consider putting on a different set of glasses.
The Movie Experience
Have you ever watched a movie with someone then talked about it after you watched it? Have you found that you noticed and saw and were interested by very different things about the movie, different characters and different parts of the movie?
If so, have you stopped and thought about why?
After all, it is the same movie, the same images and the same sounds. Yet you mentioned, noticed, and cared about different things.
Same experience, different observations.
Have you ever watched the same movie at different times in your life and had very different reactions to or observations about it?
Of course you have.
The current situation and context of your life allowed you or helped you see different things in exactly the same experience.
You were watching the movie through a different lens. And that lens helped you “see” new things.
The Translation
Here is the cool thing about these movie experiences.
We can consciously pick the lens we look at the world through, so that what we notice gives us opportunity to observe different things. And those observations can be the source of new knowledge, understanding and learning.
This is very exciting news!
It means that whatever we experience, read, listen to and watch can be an opportunity for learning!
This is true for all of us, and everyone will have 'aha' moments or make connections in the midst of situations; but with a couple of choices and some practice, you can make this more intentional, effective and consistent.
In other words, you can learn more every day than you ever thought possible.
The Two Choices
1. Pick your lens. In other words, decide what you want to be learning about and think about your life experiences looking for clues or ideas that apply to what you are learning.
2. Reflect on your observations. After you have noticed new things, make the connection back to your situation and context so you can truly turn the observation into learning.
This will take some practice but not nearly as much as it might seem as you are reading this advice.
Examples
Here are a couple of simple every day examples, that while they may be directly useful for you, they are meant only to illustrate the process I am recommending for you.
Most people watch the news because they “want to be informed” and many people talk about how the news is so negative. But if you are a leader, why not watch the news with your “leadership lens” on, noticing how the leaders in the news stories are communicating, the decisions they are making, and how they are dealing with change and more?
You might find things you want to do, or things you want to avoid, but isn’t there learning there?
Same experience, vastly different result, based on the lens you choose.
If you are reading a light novel on your summer vacation, as you read for enjoyment, you also put on the lens of what you want to be learning. As you read the story, get to know the characters and more, there may be lessons for you in those pages too! Plus, if you want to be a better fishermen (if that is your lens), you could pick novels set in fishing villages, on fishing vessels, or… well you get the idea.
A Final Thought
Picking our lens is critical to becoming lifelong learners and squeezing all we can from our lives. But as important as the two choices are, there is a third choice you need to make that will ultimately make the biggest difference.
After you have made new observations and reflected on them, you must choose to apply what you have learned – you must use, try, and practice.
When you make these conscious choices, your learning and your results will accelerate, and you will be one of those people others look up to as wise, accomplished and successful – a true lifelong learner.

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