Neil Thompson’s Lesson for Living – Learn from success as well as failure

It is widely recognised that there is much learning to be gained from reviewing our mistakes, looking at what went wrong and how and why it did. However, what is often given far less attention than it deserves is the immense learning to be gained from what goes right. If we are being successful in most of what we are doing, then we can learn a great deal from asking ourselves what it is that we are doing that is so effective. This can then give us the opportunity to look at how we do it even better, to build on our strong points, rather than just build up our not so strong points.

Mistakes are quite rightly seen as a good source of learning, but focusing too narrowly on the negatives of a situation or our response to it can put what went well out of focus, hidden in the shadows. For example, in a fraught situation involving conflict, the anxiety I feel in such tense circumstances may lead me to say something unwise and ill-considered that unwittingly inflames the conflict, thereby creating the possibility that the person I spoke to may become aggressive or even violent. Making sure that I do not make such unwise comments in future would be a good example of the important learning to be drawn out from getting things wrong. But it can also mask the fact that the person concerned did not become aggressive or violent because I was very skilful in handling the situation, very effective in defusing the additional tension that I unintentionally caused through my unwise comment. Feeling bad about getting something wrong can easily dominate our thoughts and thereby filter out what went well and how our own contributions to that figured so significantly …

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