A reference experience is something you went through in the past that can help you navigate something your going through now. I recently called on a reference experience and thought I’d share as an encouragement to you to get the most out of your own reference experiences.
My little cat Calvin had gotten a lot of sores in a few places on his body. Then I noticed that he was very itchy. I was very concerned about him and the problem was getting worse. Next thing I knew I had fleeting thoughts of “what if it’s terminal and he dies?” I finally took him into the vet who quickly gave the diagnosis: my indoor cat has seasonal allergies.
The vet told me he’d give my kitty a shot and it should fix the problem long enough for the allergens in the air to clear up. And it’d help for me to clean the floors, too, as well as any dusty spots where Calvin likes to sleep.
At first I couldn’t believe an indoor cat could have seasonal allergies. It never even crossed my mind. Then, after I considered it, I wasn’t surprised.
It all came rushing back to me. I remembered taking my guide dog–who I only had for a few short months–to be treated for allergies. I took comfort in the memory, knowing I’d make it through my current circumstance because I’ve dealt with this before. I could have gone into freak-out mode, but I chose to believe I could handle it OK.
Calvin got the shot and his scabs are healing. He’s still a little itchy, so I decided to get to work on the floors. Admittedly, it feels like a big chore because I don’t clean the floors regularly. In fact, it’s a lot more work than I had envisioned, because of all the clutter that’s built up lately, that I wanted to clear away so I could do a good job on the floors.
For a short period, when I had my guide dog who was plagued with extreme allergies, I cleaned each room’s floor twice a week. That habit is long gone. It was daunting, but I reminded myself that I can do it because I’ve done it before. I know from experience that I can handle this problem–floors, allergies and all.
A reference experience can be a powerful help. We can call on skills and knowledge we acquired in the past. They make us more equipped to handle our current challenge. But it can take some effort to seek and identify a helpful reference experience. If you are currently going through something difficult, is there a previous experience you can refer to to help you know how to handle your current situation? It doesn’t have to be identical to provide you some useful tools.
When was a time you were strong, focused, resourceful, courageous, or honest? What quality or skill do you need now and when have you had it before? Call on that reference experience to know how to do or have it again.
Similarly, If you are going through something tough right now, remind yourself that it will be helpful for your future self to call on and apply the lessons you are learning now. That way you can benefit from looking back and using what you learned from a reference experience and look forward trusting that you are creating useful reference experiences even now.