We all know that learning is about acquiring knowledge or a skill or perhaps adopting a new perspective. But the way I see it, there are two ways to go about doing this: with intention or by experience.

The former is when you purposefully seek out situations and opportunities to learn, as well as people to learn from. And typically, what’s embedded in the process of intentional learning is a sense of curiosity and wonder. It’s driven by desire.

Then, there’s the other type of learning. Experiential learning tends to be a bit more emotionally complex – especially when the lesson comes about because something didn’t go as planned. It’s the “experience” of the outcome or the factors that influenced the outcome that tends to drive this type of lesson.

Usually, a whole lot of angst and frustration accompanies learning of this type. It’s the type that will frequently trigger statements like, “I learned a valuable lesson” or “You live and learn.” Often said in an exasperated tone; often said to soften the emotional blow of the disappointment (or shock).

This is especially true when it comes to some money lessons.

For example, there’s a huge difference between saying: “I want to learn the best way to invest my money,” and “Next time I’m going to do a better job of due diligence so that I’ll never lose that much money in an investment again.”

Intentional learning tends to be in response to a desire; experiential learning tends to be in response to a mistake (or misjudgment).

As you reflect on 2019, how many of your money lessons are the former type, rather than the latter?

I ask because we each have learned (or have gotten reaffirmed) something about ourselves and money this year – whether it showed up as something you wanted to do, wished you had done, or wished you had not done. (By the way, this is true regardless of where you may fall on the income or wealth spectrum.)

Or, maybe I jumped the gun with the above question. Maybe you haven’t yet paused to reflect on your money lessons this year – let alone its type or whether you’d ascribe “the best” to it. If this is true, not only is now a great time to ask yourself this question (and explore its many layers), it is also a great time to ask it of others. -:)

“Human beings who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”~Douglas Adams

I love the irony of this quote. And I think it is perfect for this time of the year.

Especially as you gather with family and friends to celebrate a year that is fast coming to a close. Because more than likely, during these gatherings, you are sharing and reminiscing about this year’s experiences. Yes?

As you swap stories, are you also recounting the lessons you learned – talking about the experiences you’ve had and the choices you’ve made – both good and challenging?

Are you sharing the money lessons you learned, too?!

However, as important as it is to talk about the lesson/s you’ve learned (and to hear the same from others), it’s important to keep this in mind:

There’s a difference between learning a lesson and internalizing a lesson.

For the latter to occur, you need a formalized reflection process to truly capture not only what happened, but also how you intend to use it as guidance for the future.

Here are a few suggestions:

December is when I carve out several days to do an annual review and reflection on my business. One of the questions I answer is, “What did I learn (or get re-affirmed)?”

Not only is this a good question for evaluating the performance of a business, it is also a good one to ask when it comes to evaluating one’s performance and the evolution of one’s relationship with money. Thus, the title of this post.

Even if you don’t share your answer with me (or anyone else for that matter), taking a moment to pause and reflect on your money lessons each year is a good practice to adopt. And here’s a note of caution: Don’t just take note of what went sideways. Also acknowledge what you learned from things that went well and maybe even exceeded your expectations.

You may only need a few hours (rather than a few days) for this reflection, but it will be hours well spent for the insight you’ll discover about yourself and your behavior with money.

Once you’ve catalogued what you’ve learned, it’s time to unpack it some more. Think of it as uncovering the lesson behind the lesson because…

…if you embrace the idea that all lessons – whether acquired intentionally or experientially – are designed to help you grow and perhaps change, then what did that growth and change manifest?

Did it show up in your mindset, the habits you practice, the choices you make and how you do so, the discipline you practice, the boundaries you set, the goals you set or something else?

Another important step required to internalize a lesson is this: remove self-blame.

Yes, this is often easier to say (suggest) than to do. But blame and shame keep you paralyzed. They don’t create the space for you to acknowledge the lesson, internalize it, and then create a way to integrate said lesson in your choices and actions moving forward.

Lessons expand your understanding about a subject or situation.

Lessons help you improve the condition of your circumstances.

And lessons are never, ever just for your benefit!

This reminds me of another quote, one I used in my book, “Financial Intimacy:” “Experience is the worst teacher; it gives the test before presenting the lesson.” Vernon Law, former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher.

In other words, why not benefit from what others have or have not done. It can be just as insightful and much less stressful. But, this can only happen when we share our money lessons – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So, I take it back. I, actually, do hope you’ll share your best money lesson…because it just may help someone else to have a better year ahead!

p.s. I wrote about one of my money lessons from this year as a guest blog post here.

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