John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, who is considered the father of experiential education said,
“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.”
In the past 35 years, I have had several opportunities to pause and evaluate my circumstances. With the value of hindsight, I usually see how specific events or seemingly unrelated experiences fit into a larger unfolding picture. Perhaps this has happened to you. Has a past experience become more meaningful to you over time in a way that caused you to see that its purpose wasn’t just for its own time?
In 2000, I finished my master’s degree in experiential education. At that time in my life, my career goal was to become the executive director of a therapeutic camp. I knew a master’s degree would be helpful but it was not vital for me to choose experiential education. I could have selected many different majors. Experiential education made the most sense to me due to my awareness of my own interests and the hands-on learning aspects of therapeutic camping.
I did enjoy the study and while I was never an executive director of a therapeutic camp the degree has become increasingly significant in my life. Never more so than it is today as a life strategist and creator of the Life Leaders GPS.
The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) defines experiential education as:
a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.
I must admit I have never been closely involved with the AEE and I certainly did not have the previous sentence memorized, so I find it uncanny how accurately it describes the Life Leaders GPS. The creation of this tool has been informed by several different modalities of my own training and experiences in life (my certification as a coach and leadership trainer, hundreds of hours of self-education in neuro-linguistic programming and the principles of life and career success, my faith, the foundations of therapeutic camping, my career as a camp professional, and perhaps least of all my formal education).
All of that background only gives the Life Leaders GPS its structure. It doesn’t give it any brilliance or beauty. That is where you step in. This process didn’t begin as a course, but as the pieces started to assemble it became clear that it is a course in the study of YOU. Your unique design and your unique experiences are the subject matter of this course. This is a distinct opportunity for you to purposefully engage in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase your knowledge (or awareness), develop your skills, and clarify your values. It is the possibility of a better future and the development of your capacity to contribute to your community. Its distinction comes not from any brilliance of my own, but rather from the unfortunate fact that focused reflection and the clarification of one’s values is widely uncommon and even avoided by most. When it comes to personal growth, the majority would rather worship at the altar of “too little time and money” as a convenient belief that enables the evasion of discomfort.
But as your own experience tells you, everything that has taken your life to the next level has required loosening your grip on something from your current level. When we grow, everyone we care about benefits and we experience higher satisfaction in life.
Perhaps another John Dewey quote sums it up best.
“To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.”