I have created this process visual to demonstrate how new experiences can be used to flush out old experiences thereby creating a better outlook for the future.
If you don't seek new useful experiences, you will be stuck with the ones you have already had. If they were good experiences that you hold on to, that may not be that bad particularly when it comes to predicting the future, but if they were bad, that's really bad...
The current lens
Psychologists believe that one will tend to view that which is currently being experiencing as well as very recent experiences, through a lens determined by past experiences. If past experiences are all bad, then one is likely to predict that future experiences will be bad as well. In fact, even current and very recent experiences that may well have been positive can become tainted. The lens becomes murky and one may perceive otherwise good experiences as bad or negative.
Polishing your outlook and that of your employees
You’ve probably heard the expression that pessimist see a glass as half empty and that optimists see a glass as half full. In my first job I was told that realists know that if you stick around long enough someone is going to have to clean that glass.
What we need is a tool for keeping that glass clean. Psychologists have tools for helping people through past experiences, and the skills to employ them in ways that can help people deal with negative or traumatic experiences of their past. If you truly have something that is holding you back, traumatic or otherwise, these are good people to talk to, and my simple model does not attempt to replace them. It simply takes the work of good people such as Dr. Martin Seligman, and others, and depicts one of the key concepts into something that can be understood quickly and easily.
My view is that if our brains are computers, we need to flush out the memory buffers. I believe that on a daily basis we can maintain our own looking glass. While preparing for day-to-day interactions, a person can benefit from simply stacking the deck in their favor by lining up enough sure-fire successes and positive experiences intended to displace past experiences of negative outcomes.
Simplistically this means that in addition to our regular routines, planning in advance a few things that are easily achievable, and then reflecting on the positive aspects of each event soon after. From a management perspective this may mean moving away from compliance metrics (perfect or not) and towards progress metrics (are we moving in the right direction).
The goal is to pad the past with positive experiences thereby flushing out the bad. As more challenging things come along, the likelihood that one will predict their outcome as negative, will be reduced, and we can take on more challenging situations more readily.
As we continue, in addition to no longer spinning otherwise good experiences as bad, I maintain that even the negative events will be perceived as not so bad. You can’t do this easily if your past experiences are all negative. The dog that was rescued from an abusive owner may no longer remember why it flinches when a hand is raised, but eventually that negative subconscious memory in the distant past just might be flushed from the queue to make room for the positive experience of an outstretched hand containing a treat.
If you are a manager it might just be worth looking at how your outstretched hand is perceived. People don’t need treats to perform, but they do need positive experiences. Are people moving towards or away from the outstretched hands in your workplace?