How do you react when you find an obstacle in your path?
Do you focus on external reasons for failure? See outcomes as beyond your ability to impact?
Or do you look deeply within, courageously challenging your assumptions, your objectives, even your ultimate goal? Do you subject yourself to rigorous self-examination? Do you consider internal reasons for failure? Are you as least as willing to sculpt and change yourself as you are to ask the external world to yield to your vision?
Single loop learning is when we focus only on the external world in our search for solutions. Double loop learning is when we are willing to focus on our internal world as well.
Yes, hard work, persistence, practice, vision, commitment, and passion: these are all critical to success beyond the ordinary. Add self-awareness, the ability to look within and change as equally important.
“Anytime we think the problem is ‘out there,’ that thought is the problem.” — Stephen R. Covey; 1932–2012
Postscript: Example of belated self-awareness, delayed embracing of double loop
I divorced in my late twenties. I enjoyed being in a stable, loving, long-term relationship and I focused my dating efforts on finding a long-term mate. After several years, I had met a lot of wonderful people but it never seemed to work out for the long haul.
I sat down for a period of intense self-examination. Two basic possibilities occurred to me: Either there was something wrong with everyone I’d met (external focus) or there was something wrong with how I was going about it (internal focus). Occam’s Razor, a principle of logical reasoning, states that one should always choose the simplest solution, the problem was ME.
I experienced a startling insight. A significant reason the relationships failed is that I was unconsciously handing everyone the script from my marriage, saying “read this,” “this is how a relationship is supposed to work.” The scenery changed, the actors rotated, but the script never varied.
That epiphany led to further self-examination and a period of rapid personal growth.