Vicarious Experience

As humans, we are affected by what we experience. Our experiences shape us. We learn from experiences. Our attitudes change when we experience new things. Experiences provide motivation. Experiences can weaken and discourage us. Certain experiences affect us more than others. Certain experiences provide both good things and bad things.

 For instance, the experience of getting cut from a team can motivate you to train extremely hard in order to prove people wrong. The experience of losing a loved one can change your perspective on life and make you more grateful for your friends and family. These are the benefits that come from experiences that most would consider adverse. It's nice to gain these benefits, but no one wants the tangible costs of going through these kinds of experiences. 

Wouldn't it be great if you could gain these benefits without actually having to go through adverse experiences? Luckily, there is a way to do this! It's called vicarious experience, which is learning from other people's experiences. You don't have to directly experience things to learn lessons from them. You can just use your rational mind and imagination to think about the experiences of others and what goes on through these people's minds and how these events affect them.

For instance, you don't need to lose a game in order to gain the motivation that comes from losing a game. You can just think about how you'd feel if you lose and this can remind you to not get complacent.

A short basketball player may be extremely dedicated because he or she knows that they need to compensate for their lack of height. A taller basketball player may use height or other forms of natural talent as a crutch and not work as hard because of this. However, a smart basketball player would use vicarious experience to understand the motivational advantage of a shorter player. He or she would then be motivated to not use their height as a crutch and would try to get the most out of their physical capabilities.

Suffering an injury can teach an athlete to take better care of their body and appreciate their health. Using vicarious experience, you can have this same improvement in mindset without having to experience an actual injury. You can just think about how lucky you've been to stay injury-free and you can imagine how upset you'd be if you had to miss a season because of an injury. This would motivate you almost as much as if you actually suffered an injury.

Notice how I said "almost"? This is because vicarious experiences aren't as powerful as real experiences. When you experience something directly, rather than just thinking about it, you learn more from it. You are more deeply affected by it. It provides more motivation.

This doesn't mean vicarious experiences are worse. Even if you learn less from them, the net benefit of vicarious experiences can still be better than real experiences, since vicarious experiences don't require the tangible costs that real experiences do.

As Warren Buffet says, "It's good to learn from your mistakes. It's better to learn from other people's mistakes."

It isn't just good to think about adverse vicarious experiences. You also can gain lessons and motivation from positive vicarious experiences.  For example, you can think/visualize how good you'd feel if you won a national championship. You can also gain confidence by thinking about a successful person who is similar to you in certain ways. 

There are so many examples of vicarious experiences that can help you improve your mindset. The best athletes don't just rely on their own experiences to draw motivations/lessons from. They want to maximize their motivation/learning, so they use vicarious experiences a lot! they are always thinking about how certain experiences would affect them. They are always trying to learn from other people's experiences.

Remember, benefiting from vicarious experience isn't always easy. You can't just lazily think about someone's experience and expect to draw as much motivation as them. You have to think deeply about them in order to gain from them. It can be mentally challenging. And don't expect vicarious experience to be that powerful. Many times, you are only able to squeeze out a little bit of emotion from them. Like I said, they are not as emotionally triggering as real experiences. But it is your job to take whatever emotions and motivation you get from vicarious experience, and put it to good use!