The simplest thing you can do right now to amp up your learning

“We do not learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience.”
— John Dewey

I recently attended a conference specifically designed to enhance the learning of participants.

Many best-practice principles were incorporated but the aspects that stood out the most to me were the regular reflection periods woven throughout the three-day event.

Instead of leaving the conference each day feeling overloaded with information that I would need to set aside additional time later on to process, time was allotted during the conference to reflect, discuss insights, and plan out next steps. 

The incorporation of these regular reflection periods was deliberate.  Studies have shown that "purposeful reflection on one’s accumulated experience leads to greater learning than the accumulation of additional experience."  [1]

So in other words, you stand to gain the most insight if you take time to reflect on what you have already experienced rather than if you keep yourself busy accumulating more experiences. 


Do you allow yourself regular time to reflect?

Unfortunately, those same studies have shown that “if individuals themselves are given the choice to either reflect or practice, they prefer to allocate their time to gaining more experience with the task - to the detriment of their learning.” [1]

I often hear people say that they just “don’t have the time” or are “too busy” and will get to it when things “settle down.”  But guess what?  In this day and age where there is no shortage of distractions vying for our attention, things rarely settle down or get less busy if we don’t actively create space for ourselves.  We must be intentional about setting aside time to reflect.  


Creating space

If you are one of the many women who finds she keeps putting everything and everyone else before herself, who reaches the end of the day feeling exhausted from doing things that have helped others reach their goals but find that there hasn’t been any time for you, I want to encourage you to take a moment to pause.

I’m not a psychologist so I’m not going to attempt to diagnose what happened in your past to drive you to behave as though everyone else is more important than you...but as a coach, I would encourage you to reflect on whether your current approach of putting yourself last is getting you the results that you want.

  • Do you feel the way you want to feel?
  • Are you happy with the progress you’re making towards the goals you've set?
  • How’s your current approach working for you?
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
— Henry Ford

There are many ways that you can begin to tap into the benefits of reflection.  Journalling at the end of the day.  Setting aside time to go on a reflective nature walk at the end of each week.  Making appointments to connect regularly with a supportive friend or coach.

One of the reasons professional coaching is such a powerful way to accelerate your personal and professional development is because the process* incorporates the following research-backed aspects proven to accelerate transformation:

  • space to reflect and focus completely on you and unlocking your potential

  • neuroscience-based questioning techniques that stretch you and broaden your awareness, helping you make connections and gain insight faster

  • feedback and acknowledgement from a professional who is trained in how to effectively “hold up a mirror” to help you see yourself and the impact of your actions (or non-actions) and behaviors so that you can make adjustments that will accelerate progress towards the goals you want to achieve.

As the end of the year approaches, I hope you will start setting aside some time to reflect, in whatever form is right for you.  Remember: you’re worth it.



[1] Di Stefano, Giada, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats. "Learning by Thinking: Overcoming the Bias for Action through Reflection." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-093, March 2014. (Revised March 2015.)

*When the coaching process is undertaken with a certified professional coach.