This is a guest post by Allie Smith-Hobbs.

I was recently copied on an email that said, “I hoped you learned something, even if it was not what you intended” and I’ve been ruminating on this all week.

What am I learning that I didn’t intend to learn? Unintentional lessons happen to us all the time, we just need to stop and realize that’s what it is. You know, those “growth experiences” that we’d like to avoid most of the time.

It’s true that we learn from life’s hard experiences, but I’d wager that we’ll learn the most if we’re able to stop, take a step back and see the bigger picture of what we’re truly learning. In many ways, I feel like I’ve graduated from the school of hard knocks, (perhaps even an honorary PhD from the University of Doing it the Hard Way), but life seems to keep repeating situations until we learn the lessons.

Now if I’m paying for a course and want to learn the technical skills of grant writing, I hope I learn the technical skills of grant writing. But if I also learn something about my mindset in that I tend to be an information gatherer rather than an implementer, that’s just as valuable (if not more so!). (Unfortunately, as much as I’ve tried, learning and making real change in my life does not occur through diffusion of helpful books on my nightstand. I have to implement it.)

We experience these unintentional learning situations every day – at work, at home, in the car between the two.

I’m no zen master and it might take a level of maturity currently out of my grasp to sort through every sucky situation to tease out the lessons.

Sometimes that may take a few deep breaths behind a locked office door (or, ahem, digging into my secret stash of chocolate), but that’s okay. What did I learn?

What I learned might simply be that I get defensive and reactive when approached in a certain way or about certain topics. My first reaction is, “Yeah, when XYZ happens, I learned that you’re a jerk…” But if I can take it as my responsibility and reframe it as, “When XYZ happens, I get defensive and reactive. So how can I operate proactively even if XYZ doesn’t change?”

Framing is a powerful technique that Morgan teaches in grant writing, but it applies everywhere in life. I can take charge of my own response through my personal framing. My challenge to myself it to take the unintentional lesson and turn it into an intentional frame.

What about you? No zen mastery required, but did you learn unintended something throughout your day today that you can reframe?

Allie Smith-Hobbs has a background in administration with a M.S. in Instructional and Performance Technology and a passion for literature and writing. She combines adventure, administrative support and cool technology in supporting Dr. Morgan Giddings and her clients.

    2 replies to "The Unexpected Lesson"

    • Shieak

      Some of the best lessons in life for me have come through this route. thanks for sharing this!

    • Lisa

      A great post – It’s funny how hard we keep trying to change “XYZ”. Taking control our response to “XYZ” makes so much more sense!

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