Ps & Qs Education

Understanding the past

Our past helps us face the present and shape the future.

Our past helps us face the present and shape the future. | Photo Credit: Freepik

I’m writing this column on a routine Sunday evening. Except that there’s nothing routine about the events unfolding today or any day. By the time you read this article, there’s probably much more happening around the world. But that was always the case. In any given month, year, decade or century, we are witness to events that change and challenge a generation.

June is a significant month for many reasons. It is celebrated as Pride month in many parts of the world. Then there’s Juneteenth that was observed in the U.S. (a word combining June and ‘19’ because on June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans learned of their freedom). I also learnt that the first Women’s magazine ever published was in June, way back in the 1600s. There are equally historic events linked to June in India as well. But why is history relevant for professionals in the workplace? Why is knowledge of the past important for the present and the future?

Our growth is informed by how much we’re willing to learn from the mistakes we have made. As they say, unless we know where we come from and how we made that trek to where we stand currently, how can we know where we’re going?

Awareness of context

As far as an organisation and our role in it goes, our Ps&Qs must take care of not just professional etiquette, but also include an awareness of the past or let’s say contexts. Historical contexts of the company we work for, of the teams and the individuals we work with. When becoming part of an organisation, taking the initiative to understand its vision and its goals is vital. Similarly, investing some time researching and understanding the contexts and backgrounds of the teams we work with, would also help tremendously. It may not always be possible to understand everything on our own as developing this knowledge does take time and we cannot force it.

In addition to understanding the past and the contexts of a company or a team, we also need to pay attention to our own contexts. By this I mean our background, our strengths and areas of improvement, the roles we may have played earlier, and how those roles helped us become who we are today. These contexts become most helpful when we pause to reflect on every milestone in our professional journey, and the mistakes we made while we reached them. Because let’s face it. We all make mistakes. This is where our past helps us face the present and shape the future. We, of course, need to be willing to learn from those mistakes.

It is a very humbling experience to be able to look in the mirror of our past, identify those mistakes and then draw the lessons learnt from them. Sometimes, when we get lost in the rush of ambition and success, we may forget to reach for that mirror. At those times, having a mentor, an ally or a friend who holds that mirror up to us becomes critical.

Evaluate evolution

Now what if one is just starting out in the workplace. Would there still be a context to be aware of? No matter how young or inexperienced we may be, there are always milestones and mistakes that we have experienced. May be you were the captain of a sports team in your school or university. Perhaps you were the project head for a student initiative. May be you were always the quiet one who didn’t play any roles per se but always went about working on your goals. All it takes is to look back at those days and evaluate how you evolved over the years. The evolution is marked by the mistakes we may have made and how we emerged stronger and, hopefully, wiser.

Does any of this mean we won’t make any more mistakes? No. We cannot be afraid to make mistakes; we just need to be brave enough to admit we made them and more importantly, thank ourselves and the people who helped us learn from them.

Many say people don’t change. But in my experience, we do. We are just too busy to observe the changes. So, as time moves on, as events unfold to become history, it would cost us nothing to take a few minutes every now and then to see how our own individual history can help us fare better at work and in life.

The author is a writer and literary journalist. She also heads Corporate Communications at UST. Views expressed are personal. @anupamaraju

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 6:34:49 pm |