Step right up, step right up…
The “doctor” is in.
Welcome to the debut of Lucy’s Help Desk, a new writing concept I’ve created for my blog, where on any given Thursday I come to you with unsolicited (or, solicited) advice and philosophical ideas. And, as you may have guessed, the theme of this scheduled series is based loosely on one of my (lesser-used) nicknames and a favorite Peanuts comic strip character’s running story line/gag – Lucy and her “Psychiatric Help” version of a kid’s lemonade stand.
But no worries, this Lucy won’t charge you a dime… or a nickel… for any of her thoughts!
And now that we’ve been formally introduced, let’s get down to my first piece of advice:
How to Create an Experiential Life
So, we’ve all heard of experiential learning, but I believe this method of education can also be applied to living life more fully. First, here’s a refresher on the learning concept.
Experiential learning is a method of educating through first-hand experience. In this case, your skills, knowledge, and practice are all acquired outside of the traditional academic classroom setting. This would happen through a number of ways: internships, studies abroad, field trips, field research, and service-learning projects.
The concept of experiential learning was first explored by John Dewey and Jean Piaget, among others. It was made popular by education theorist David A. Kolb, who, along with John Fry, developed the experiential learning theory, which is based on the idea that learning is a process whereby knowledge is created through transformation of experience. It is based on four main elements which operate in a continuous cycle during the learning process:
- Concrete experience – having an experience
- Reflective observation – planning/trying out the experience
- Abstract conceptualization – learning from the experience
- Active experimentation – reviewing and thinking over what you’ve learned
Experiential living, I would say, is a similarly methodical approach – but instead of for learning, you would apply it to creating an intentional and fulfilling life. In the same way Shonda Rhimes faced her fears and ultimately found a happier version of herself by committing to a Year of Yes (and yes, that book is definitely next on my “must read” list), you could experience life by committing yourself to positive, “first time ever,” though-provoking, challenging, engaging adventures – whether big or small.
What do I mean by this?
I mean, accepting a spontaneous invite from a friend to go on a trip (across town or out of it), or taking a safe yet non-conventional job offer (like teaching English abroad), or jumping on an opportunity to learn a skill you may, or may never, use again (like belly dancing or horseback riding).
Essentially, it’s seeing your day-to-day life as an open classroom – where every job you take, position you hold, person you encounter, activity you participate in has the potential to teach you about your smaller “self” (you) and your larger “self” (humanity, the world).
How do I know?
Because I’ve done all of the examples I listed above… and then some!
For me, I decided at a young age to cram as many experiences as I could into my life for how ever long I had to live it. And though as a kid, I didn’t really understand how I would go about doing this, by junior high school I had started making a conscious effort to be more involved in as many school-sponsored clubs, academic outings, and volunteer activities as possible.
And if you say, “OK, well what kid doesn’t do that in grade school or high school?” I’d say, “yeah, you’re right – whether by choice or parent force!” But, the key is to carry over that practice from childhood into adulthood. Translate that same thirst you may have had when younger for “new,” “multiple,” or “varied” learning experiences into having “new,” “multiple,” or “varied” living experiences now.
Here are just a few images from my experiential life so far:
And yes, there’s a story behind all of them that relates back to this last thought:
Life truly does become an adventure when you open yourself up to experiencing it from different viewpoints, places, spaces, chance opportunities, and perspectives.