At one point or another, everyone questions if what they’re doing is right or good.
Whether you’re selling cigarette ads or raising funds for an orphanage, you have to decide why that matters to you. Maybe selling those ads affords you a life that can support a good family and you believe family is most important. Or raising funds for the orphanage leads to better lives for those kids, and you believe every child deserves a chance at a good life.
What you believe about your world, your work, and yourself will determine what you do and how long you do it. Your beliefs push you through challenges and help you navigate countless decisions.
In the words of Lin Manuel Miranda from his musical about Alexander Hamilton:
If you stand for nothing, what’ll you fall for?
A couple of years ago, the Ei team and I wrote the seven beliefs below. Doing so helped us frame this grand and nebulous world of education and experience. They drive our work, our relationships, and they keep us centered on the days when things go awry.
Here they are:
1. Experience is for everyone.
This type of learning is not limited to certain ages, socioeconomic classes, or seasons of time. Experience is for anyone, anywhere. It is the great leveler of society, excluding no one and understood by everyone.
2. Experience is transformative.
One of the most powerful ways to learn is by doing — by placing ourselves in the situations and with the people who are aiming to solve real world challenges.
3. Experience can be designed.
Learning through experience is not accidental, it’s intentional. Rather than choosing a major, experience begs us to choose missions that are sparked by reflection and rooted in goals.
4. Experience necessitates risk.
Many of life’s transformative lessons come from being in a new situation — where you don’t know the right answer or there isn’t a right answer. Those are the places where you’ve taken a leap over the unknown and are aiming for a better place. You have to have faith in yourself and the things that moved you to take that leap.
5. Experience requires reflection.
We don’t only learn by doing. Reflection is the fruit of action — it’s what we take away after planting that nourishes us and those around us. Our ability to examine where we’ve been shapes our ability to see where we might go.
6. Experience supports story.
Our actions set the stage for the compelling stories we share with friends, family, peers, and heroes. Those stories define our future relationships, careers, and perspectives on the world and ourselves. If we take the time to craft and tell them well, they lead to our very best places.
7. Experience is better together.
Community multiplies the lessons we learn. With every new set of eyes, our experiences become exponentially more meaningful, both personally and to those around us.
These are a few things that have been guiding us at Ei, but if you want to geek out about both the history and future of experience and learning, check out this summary from Deloitte, this article from Harvard Business Review, or John Dewey’s classic text on Experience and Education.
How about you?
If you had to list all of your beliefs, what would they include?
Try writing everything that comes to mind. Anything goes. Then start narrowing them down to the top 5–10 beliefs. Sit with them for a while. Post them somewhere visible. Talk about them with your team and friends. See how they stick.
And when you come to the point in your journey where you’re not sure which way to go, let them guide you.