The currency of experience

To paraphrase, stuff happens. Whoever we are, whatever our circumstances, stuff happens to us. It’s the kind of stuff we didn’t plan for, didn’t anticipate, didn’t dream of: it happens anyway.

Let’s not get too fatalistic about this. I’m not saying ‘If it’s just going to happen anyway, I might as well not bother applying for promotion/putting the house on the market/going on that date/enrolling on the course/entering the ballot for a marathon place.’

My perspective is more positive than that. Since this (whatever it is) has happened, what can I learn from it? Aldous Huxley sums it up perfectly –

 ‘Experience is not what happens to a man;

it’s what a man does with what happens to him’

Whilst I thoroughly endorse the idea of being present in the moment, sometimes we can get stuck there. If it’s a good experience, you may want to stay there and enjoy that happiness a little while longer. If it was a bad experience, you may find yourself replaying it, maybe trying to imagine a way it could have played out differently or seeing if it’s as bad in remembrance as it was at the time: a bit like when you keep poking your aching tooth to see if it still hurts.

I see this sometimes in myself both professionally and personally and I see it in my clients too. It can be good to talk over a specific experience, particularly if it’s one you can’t share openly with your colleagues or friends. Whether good or bad, that experience only has real worth if we use it to take effective decisions based on what we’ve been through. In client sessions, we don’t sweep the experience under the carpet – we acknowledge it and give it some space. I move on to ask, ‘so what will you do now as a result of this experience?’ Then I ask, ‘what can you do to have more (or fewer, depending on the circumstances) experiences like this in the future?’

Together, my client and I reflect on what has been and where we are now: then we move on and plan for the future.

Today’s pebble for you to contemplate:

What will you do with the experience you have had this week?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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