Past behavior predicts future performance. This phrase, which was frequently touted during my days as a Human Resources professional, has always irked me.
While I understand that one way to determine future performance is by considering past performance, the thing that bothers me is how absolute this statement sounds.
It seems to ignore the possibility that people can change. It reinforces a fixed mindset, which considers mistakes as bad, and disregards the prospect that people can, and do, learn from them.
I mention this here because today’s topic explores our past experiences with an eye toward not just leveraging those experiences that went well for us, but also those that didn’t.
It encourages us to dig into what worked as well as what didn’t in order to incorporate learnings from both. By doing this, we set ourselves up for success the next time around, in part, because we’ve identified ways to support a shift in our expectations out of the past, in order to design a new intentional future.
To do this, as you may have already imagined, we must first ask ourselves some questions to heighten our awareness:
Becoming aware of our past.
The following questions will help uncover experiences that can assist you in more smoothly adapting to your change.
Once you’ve highlighted direct and indirect experiences, it is important to evaluate whether or not you found those experiences to be positive or not.
Creating a timeline of our past experiences..
A helpful tool, called Timeline, is outlined in this previous post.
This exercise helps you review all experiences around a specific topic (for example, jobs. Or relationships. Or moves.), and your assessment of whether they were positive (+), negative (-) or a combination of the two (~).
From there you can dig deeper into why you liked or disliked the experience and search for any replicating patterns that surfaces during the exercise.
The more you understand about your patterns, the more you’ll be able to incorporate scaffolding to support a positive shift in those patterns for a more enjoyable change this time around.
It might be easy to recall certain experiences from our past that relate to our current or future change. Some of those experiences may have been positive ones, while others may have been problematic, causing resentment or even trauma.
Opening our eyes to past patterns.
Often times, those experiences that initially come to mind when thinking about a change shape the way we think about it.
If we had a positive experience last time, we might expect to have a positive experience the next time around. If, however, a similar experience in our past was difficult in some way, it could create fear and resistance to the new change.
By leveraging what worked in the past to support a positive change this time around, while also raising our consciousness about what didn’t work and why, we can incorporate what we’ve learned into how we approach the current change.
This helps us face our change with eyes wide open. With better understanding of the way our experiences may have influenced our perspective about our change, we reduce the risk of falling into the same or similar counter-productive patterns from our past by designing new ways of thinking and being into the future.
Attuning through contrasts.
Now that you have a thorough awareness of your past experiences, it’s time to evaluate them in terms of your new change.
Creating a visual guide for alignment.
To align our past experiences with our new ones, we will identify what I refer to as Peaks and Valleys that highlight the ups and downs of our learning journey to now.
Doing this helps us to visualize all that we’ve learned, including what has worked thus far and what hasn’t as applied to our current change.
While it is a general visual depiction of our past experiences, we can always add greater detail, with red flags if we are concerned about falling into counter-productive patterns or mindsets from our past.
Creating this guide can be helpful if we get to a point in our adjustment to the change where we feel we aren’t adequately prepared, or are experiencing difficulty. It can also reinforce productive behaviors.
Referencing this chart will help us to remember that path we’ve taken to get to this point, as well as the challenges we’ve faced and how we overcame them.
How to create Peaks and Valleys.
The peaks might be great, but often times we experience such highs because they are something new. Reminding ourselves that with awareness we might also minimize our time on the peaks is an important step to better understanding our past patterns.
New peaks and possible valleys might be formed from this new experience, but by creating a map of where we’ve been before, we can traverse some of the new terrain with a greater sense of confidence, finesse and balance.
Experiencing our change authentically.
The more open and honest you are with yourself about your past experiences, the more likely you are to move forward with your change in a centered and authentic way.
It is when we tuck away and resist facing certain experiences from our past, that similar situations arise again in the future. After all, as Carl Jung said, “what we resist persists”.
Regular reflection on how things in our new change connect with experiences of the past can help us to stay grounded. But it is important to pay close attention to those times when we write off our new experiences as being ‘just like’ whatever past experience without adequate evaluation.
It is easy to brush off our new experiences as being similar to past experiences, but without exploring what it is about the current experience that reminds us of a previous one, and whether our perception of the new experience might be influenced in some way by a previous experience, we run the risk of missing important cues that can help us to better navigate our current experience.
Blind spots are often created through a false sense of familiarity, and denial is the risk we run when attempting to ignore similarities that point to unpleasant past experiences.
Keeping our eyes wide open as we traverse the often fun, yet sometimes rocky terrain of change keeps us nimble, and protected from unexpected surprises. Today’s exercises are some ways to help us get and stay conscientious during our change.
Coming up next...
Stay tuned for our next post (next week), where we’ll touch-upon the role our personal principles play in our successful adaptation to change.
For those who celebrate, I wish you a very happy, safe and festive Christmas!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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