Adult Education: is this relevant to safe experimenting?

I hear and I forget

I see and I remember

I do and I understand

I reflect and I learn

Those who know my background will be aware of my time in education, as well as my time working as a counsellor and psychologist.

I believe that the approach I project on this website is heavily influenced by my work in adult education as well as in therapy.

That background helps me when I complete any work I do. I can take time to consider what I have learned from being with another person for a while. That’s why some folk end up with an email from me commenting on the results I’ve noticed.

Writing up this website over a number of years has been part of my line four in the revision to a Chinese Proverb I have included, in bold, above.

What are the implications of  this proverb? I believe it can be helpful when some-one completes therapy and is planning what to do next. It may move you into a different way of implementing small, safe experiments.  Consider how the proverb impacts on the practical work we did.

1. You will have heard some of what I had to say. Even if it sounded good, it might still have passed in one ear and out the other.

2. When we saw one another and notice the impact of a small gesture, or just a few words that are spoken, we can be puzzled – within ourselves – and wonder what that was all about. It sticks, at least for a time, and our curiosity may well have been the glue.

3. When you did something such as design and implement your own small, safe experiment, was there some understanding of “how might I change, bit-by-bit“.  What were the first and second steps on what might have been a long and winding road? What are the steps still to be taken?

4. When we examine (or reflect on) the results of a small, safe experiment – and remain curious about the different results – it is possible to go on learning.  This usually involves judging some results ‘right’ or ‘wrong’/ ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – through the experience of small victories and a small defeats. The difficult bit is knowing the difference between the two. What feels ‘wrong’, now, may prove ‘right’ in time to come – and the other way about.

Reflecting on those differences – selecting how to approach each victory or defeat – enables us to walk along a scenic route to change; along a route of our own choosing.

Walking thoughtfully, reflecting on things, can be a slow process; but it helps absorb what I need to know. By practising the ability to slow down, I can make important decisions about what I might do differently, without being tempted to act hastily.

Can you take in both the complexity and the simplicity of the choices appearing on the road just ahead of you? The task continues long after any therapy has been completed.

If you want to pursue an academic understanding of this whole process, consult the:

Journal of Career Development, Vol. 30, No. 1, Fall 2003 where you will find   ….
The Journey of the Counselor and Therapist: Research Findings and Perspectives on Professional Development
by Michael H. Rønnestad of the University of Oslo and Thomas M. Skovholt of the University of Minnesota

They conclude “that continuous reflections are a prerequisite for optimal learning and professional development at all levels of experience“.  It is their understanding that the ability and willingness to continually reflect upon professional experiences in general, and difficulties and challenges in particular, are prerequisites for the  optimal professional performance of the professional. They encourage the attitude of openness to new learning, and to the quality of curiosity, as central elements in the functioning of effective therapists.

More revealingly, they caution against: “simplistic and reductionistic conceptions of the human condition in general” and they promote a therapeutic endeavour that values uncertainty, indeterminacy and unpredictability as key drivers in sustaining effective change. In particular, they are critical of “the true-believer position”. I take this to include most of the ‘schooled’ approaches; this view, as i see it, has sought to promote ‘true-believers’ over many decades.  The Schools of therapy have competed to be ‘top dog’ and to dominate the thinking of professional therapists.

In their turn, therapists can find themselves dominating the thinking of their clients.

This is the unexpressed oppression that is writ through our political systems, but rarely exposed to the light of day. The paper on Power, Threat and Meaning went some way to face up to that.


Return to:


What is a nudge?

How to design a safe experiment

Are you sure they are experiments?

Models of change.