As human beings we learn through our experiences and mostly, it is the negative experiences we remember, even as children – the stomach ache after eating too many sweets teaches us that we should not go overboard with sugar; we touch a hot plate and remember that it hurt. When we grow older, we keep applying the same method; just in more complex settings – at school, at the workplace, with our relationships. And some experiences hurt us, maybe even scarred us in the long-run.
We all went through it – unreciprocated love, a person cheating, someone breaking our trust and heart. In the professional field, we go through the same: some decisions may not have turned out the way we had hoped they would. They may have even turned into something we consider a failure. Some of these experiences may have scarred us. And just like the hot plate, we try to avoid making these “mistakes” again.
I see that due to past experiences, I have become more cautious. I had my fair share of men who misused my trust, cheated or led an entire double-life – sometimes all three at once. It took me a long time to move on from these experiences. And it still takes me a very long time to trust someone. I question many things, because the negative experiences have made me paranoid that I may have overlooked something suspicious or a red flag.
Business-wise, I think about decisions way more than I used to early on in my career. This also means that I tend to overthink as well. The older and more experienced we get, the more aware we become about the consequences. I like to compare it to me taking a plane: There were times when I boarded a plane at least once a week. And I did not think about anything – I boarded, fell asleep, worked or watched a movie and arrived. I slept through turbulence. Now, I still am not scared of flying but I have become more aware of what might happen. I definitely do not sleep through turbulence anymore. The previous nonchalance is gone. Similarly, I look at my business and compare the current decisions with previous ones, trying to predict the future – which I cannot. But I still make up hundreds of scenarios in my head based on past experiences.
The reason why I chose this topic today is because I would like to remind you – and myself – that we have to “unlearn” and forget about certain experiences. Let me correct this: “unlearning” does not mean that we should not delete the experiences completely. There was a reason that we had to go through negative things at a certain point in time and we can learn from them. We just need to find a way to reframe the experiences. Somebody hurting me in the past should not lead to doubting everyone I meet now. Furthermore, projecting our negative experiences on current relationships may be detrimental to them. Over time, I definitely learned what I want in a partner or a friend. I also learned that if somebody treats me badly, I can walk away. And because I now know what I want and how I would like to be treated, I surround myself deliberately with certain people. But I only know what I want because I made certain experiences in the past (good and bad), moved on and learned from them. Similarly, just because something bad happened career-wise in the past due to a certain decision or move, it cannot be compared to today. If we took the very same decision today, the outcome would probably be completely different. But we learned, evolved and will make better decisions in the future. Just like with the choice of partners, we know more about our careers or businesses now than we did in the past. Our decisions are probably better informed and we cannot hold ourselves back because of things which happened in the past.
We do not have to be “scarred”.
Have a great week, and sorry for the delay. I was on a break which involved not opening my laptop for a few days.