Unleash Your Artistic Optimist, Part V: Learn from Everything

I wake up, the same as I do every morning, about to unthinkingly dive into my routine. Then it occurs to me: today doesn’t have to be just like yesterday! I can learn from everything! I hear a knock at the door and open it for the mail carrier. Instead of just accepting the package, I strike up a conversation, wondering, “What might I learn in this moment?”

If we go through life on autopilot – doing what we always do without thinking about it – we miss opportunities arising in each moment to learn from and be transformed by our experiences.

While schedules and structures help us to navigate the day efficiently, going through the motions all day, every day severely limits you. Why? Change can only happen if you make choices. You can only make choices if you’re aware that choosing is possible. Whatever you want to achieve in life, awareness of positive possibilities is the first step in getting there!

As a developing Artistic Optimist, your next challenge is to recognize the learning and growth opportunities all around you. Optimists are more likely than pessimists to find a lucky penny on the ground because they are paying attention. In other words, being aware of your present moment experience opens up your options. What if that girl at the bus station might be your future girlfriend? What if the mail carrier introduces you to your favorite new band? So many things are possible if you bring openness and awareness to the here and now!

How can you approach each moment as an opportunity to learn and grow?

  1. Orient with intention. Start the day by repeating a focus phrase, like, “I am learning from everything.” Consider writing it down and putting it somewhere you’ll see it often, like on an index card or sticky note on the bathroom mirror, or the wallpaper on your phone.
  2. Ask the question. Whenever you think of it, ask yourself, “What could I learn in this moment?” By bringing attention to what you notice in that moment, you listen with senses open to what you might learn. To remember what happens afterwards, you might leave a voice memo on your phone, or jot it down on paper. For instance, “I realized this bus route is really pretty.”
  3. Take stock. At the end of the day, review each instance where you asked yourself, “What could I learn in this moment?” What did you notice? Write it or speak it to a note on your phone.
  4. Baby steps. Habits worth developing take time and energy to build, so be patient with yourself! Forget to say your focus phrase this morning? Say it now! Only asked yourself once today what you could learn in the moment? Tomorrow, aim to do it twice!

Developing a sustainable habit of awareness is like growing a flower. Treat it harshly, and it will wither. Nourish it day by day, and it will bloom. With practice, your moments of awareness will accumulate, empowering you to take advantage of the full extent of your freedom!

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