The benefit of learning experiences (a 15-minute exercise)

 In Growth Strategies

I always refer to ‘mistakes’ in business (and my personal life) as ‘learning experiences’. I’ve been called the eternal optimist by many since I began working but I consider myself a realist. I understand that when something goes wrong or not to plan, for either myself, a friend or client, I will focus on the learning opportunities. It may appear to others that I’m overly optimistic (or optimistic at the least).

I honestly don’t believe I am (overly optimistic). Perhaps….okay, definitely, in my 20’s and a little in my early to mid-30’s, yes, that could well have been me. In the early years of a business it’s easier to face things in a positive manner and the ‘bounceability’ factor everyone talks about is definitely at a heightened level.

Year 8 is now complete in our business and I find these past few years I’ve grown steadily aware of being realistic rather than idealistically optimistic.  My thinking has definitely changed in the past 3 to 5 years. I face facts, although that is not new in itself. I always have. I’m pretty self-aware and always hold myself accountable when things work out, but more so, when they don’t go to plan, I’m my harshest critic.

Being my harshest critic is not how I define keeping myself realistic though. I believe it has such a negative impact. Being aware of negative self-talk, while also being able to move forward in a positive manner is key for me. If I could have done the learning without being too harsh a critic of myself, I believe it would have been a healthier way to progress over the years.

Working for yourself and being responsible for your business and driving it forward is the most rewarding, yet challenging ‘job’ you can have. Without a massive amount of freedom to work in a way I believe is the most efficient, I don’t think I’d ever be a good employee. Thankfully in my younger years, I was given freedom to discover how I’d like to work and was allowed invest in new ways of learning, working and sharing things I learned with others. If something can be done more efficiently then I want to try it. That works for me. It motivates me greatly.

Lately when I was having an off-day (or two…) and found my motivation to be pretty low, I decided to review the past 12 months in a reflective yet positive manner. If you’re like me and know really well what you haven’t accomplished that you wanted to by the end of 2017, then I’d recommend you give this a try. Also, for anyone finding it hard to motivate themselves for whatever reason, to take 15 minutes out of the day and give it a go.


With a clean sheet of paper write everything (or as much as you can think of) that you can do now that you couldn’t do 12 months ago. Reflect on everything positive that you have accomplished no matter how small or big, just write them all out. Go for it. It’s a wonderful exercise.

If you’ve written out goals in January 2017 this is not the time to take them out. Yes, we will all reflect on whether or not we achieved our written goals as it approaches December 31st but this isn’t the time for that (plenty of time for that as 2017 comes to a close!).

This is purely thinking back since January 2017 (or earlier if you like) to where you were in business (or personally perhaps).

Did you test a new product or service that went down well with clients? Did you find out your pricing wasn’t exactly right but you changed the product / service and realised it’s now working well? Did you read any books that improved your knowledge base? Did you attend any courses that you felt you learned a lot from? Did you network or meet many new contacts (even if not clients yet)? Any new I.T. systems learned? Do you tweet now and never before? Did you get active on social media?

I’ve no idea what will make up your achievement list. What motivates you to do what you do? When you are clear on your long-term goals or direction, sometimes in the shorter term it can be harder to see how we’re getting there. Spending a short amount of time focusing on what we have learned in the past 12 months is an excellent way to reflect in a positive manner. Keep the faith in the longer-term goals by noticing how far you have come within the past 12 months.

When you notice yourself focusing on what hasn’t gone to plan or your motivation is lacking, this is a simple exercise to get focus back. When you feel good about what’s been achieved (even if it’s not everything you planned) definitely sets you up to focus on the day to day tasks in a positive manner.

If the leader of a business isn’t motivated, it will definitely affect others they come in contact with. Be it employees or customers (!), even with the best acting skills, if you’re not in tip top form, people will notice. No doubt they will ask you about it (if they know you well enough). Take time out for yourself when you feel this way. Taking care of ourselves first is the only way we can look after others.

Best of luck and I hope your reflection is a positive ‘trick’ you can pull out of the bag on those off-days.

Wendy Merrigan (Chartered Accountant)

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search