Since 1977, I have been sending out a newsletter called LEARNINGS. Here is how I began the first issue:
This newsletter—LEARNINGS—is my way of sharing with you what I am learning. Often I learn something with one client that would have been useful with another client the day before. In order to bridge that gap of time and also to bridge the gap of space that separates me from clients and other friends outside Cleveland, I will share my learnings with you regularly in this newsletter.
That statement feels amazingly accurate more than 35 years later. The only real change is that I moved from Cleveland to London and then on to the Crook of Devon in Scotland.
In the earlier newsletters, I shared one or two learnings each time. Then I read a wonderful book by Michael Phillips called The Seven Laws of Money. He describes the Taoist approach to creating Seven Laws about anything.
I like that approach except that instead of announcing Laws, I prefer to share Learnings. I’ve now discovered Seven Learnings about all sorts of things, including Journaling, Love, Retreat, and Diversity. The latest Learnings starts here; the rest are in the Learnings Archive.
LEARNING: I can make a decision on the basis of both facts and gut reactions.
To be sure of a decision you need to gather your feelings as well as your facts. For a way of doing this, see DECISIONS on page two.
WHAT GOES ON THERE?
LEARNING: As I have responded to people who ask me what it is I do with individual clients, I have realized that actually I do three different things.
1. DECISION COUNSELING
This is immediate planning and may require only one or two sessions. We assess the information that you have and consider the possibility of getting more. Then we do role-playing and other exercises to make your choices clearer.
2. SHORT-TERM PLANNING
When you are dealing with a current life or career change, we will do short-term planning before starting long-term planning. Using information-gathering and decision-making exercises, we will devise a plan for achieving your short-term goals.
3. LONG-TERM PLANNING
The full process of life and career planning involves intensive work of what you want to do, where you want to do it, and how you can begin doing it. You will develop a base of information about your skills and about your preferences in terms of values, people, and environments. You will learn to interview for information and make good use of your contacts. We will develop a set of long-term and short-term goals and create a plan that will enable you to achieve those goals.
LEARNING: I can assess my own growth by regularly comparing my accomplishments with my goals.
How do I know if I am getting anywhere? And how do I know if I want to get where I am going? My boss, if I have one, will probably not tell me and – in any case – the only one who knows about my whole life is me.
John Crystal suggests keeping your own efficiency report on the work that you do. I have adapted John’s idea and suggest keeping your own effectiveness report on everything that you do.
I keep track of all my achievements on my effectiveness report because learning the Berlioz Requiem with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus is as enjoyable and significant to me as designing a new life-planning exercise for a workshop.
It is important to call it an effectiveness report because, as Alan Lakein observes, the question is not whether you can do something quickly and efficiently, but whether that something was actually worth doing. As Herb Shepard says, life planning is planning life worth living.
At the end of the month I record my learnings and achievements in my effectiveness report and then compare that with my goals for the month. I check off the goals that I have accomplished and decided whether to continue pursuing the other goals. Then – referring to my ongoing list of lifetime goals – I make a new set of goals for the coming month.
This decision-making exercise is adapted from one used by Irving Janis and Dan Wheeler. I write two letters to a close friend as if it were now one year since I took the position or made the decision that I am considering. In the first letter I write about how things have turned out much worse than I expected; in the second letter I write about how things have turned out much better. This process allows me to get beyond the facts involved in a decision and discover what feelings, fears, and expectations I have about this decision.