When something ends, no matter whether the ending is your choice or not, take the opportunity to recapitulate it before it fades from memory. There is learning to be done.

Why recapitulate?

We tend to believe that anything that is recent and vivid in our experience will stay vivid forever, but in fact it is likely that it will fade, often quite quickly. Life will take over, new memories will be created, and our recently developed insights and good intentions can easily be obliterated.

Recapitulation helps us to tell the story of whatever the event was, clearly and vividly, to learn the lessons that we need to learn, and to clarify what we want for ourselves as we move forward. It helps us to regain our mental balance, to center ourselves on our own long-term goals and plans, before we move on to the next event. It enables us to integrate our experiences into our life experiences, to make adjustments, to record what needs to be recorded. It can help to avoid the transfer of processes and/or feelings from a previous event to a future event when in fact there is no connection between the two. Conversely, it can help us to decide what lessons have been learned that we WANT to continue into the future, and just how we want to go about this.

Recapitulation techniques can be usefully applied to almost any situation, event or relationship that has ended, or is in a change phase. At another time I will visit recapitulation in regard to childhood events and personal relationships, but right now I'm focusing on less complicated events such a vacations, trips, conferences, or even meetings.

First, here is the Merriam-Webster Online definition for "recapitulation":

"1 a: to restate briefly : summarize: b: to give new form or expression to

2: to repeat the principal stages or phases of "
I find that a combination of these two definitions leads to the most successful use of recapitulation.

A process that you can use, or adapt to suit your own style, starts with notes, however you choose to make and save them. It is most likely that you made notes of facts, of what was said, and possibly ideas that resulted, but it is not likely that you taking in account the overall context of what was happening and why, and what might have been the angle or bias of a specific speaker. You also may not have made a note of feelings - and observation of our feelings is important if we are to maintain balance in all areas of ourselves and our contexts.

Beyond this, though, when you are home, or back in your office or hotel room, is the time for recapitulation – before life intervenes. Go through the event in chronological order - the meeting, the conference, whatever it is or was and make notes on the various phases, the beginning, the sub-sections, the ending. How are these relevant to your life? Any part of your life, no boundaries. A workshop aimed at something as mundane as learning a new office skill may include a quote that affects a relationship.

Now, taking each phase of the experience, one at a time, ask yourself some questions. For me, depending on the situation, these questions may include:

What did I learn?
Who did I meet?

What did they say that is relevant to me or my interests, my life?
How does this change what I think? What are the implications of this change?

Do I have feelings about the event that need to be processed? Are they positive or negative? What triggered them? Is there something I need to learn or change resulting from this awareness?

How does this change what I do? What will I do differently? When will I start?

Do I want to follow up with anyone I met or heard?
What do I want to say to them - and when will I do this? Do I need to check on contact information before discarding programs etc?

Do I want to pass on information about my experience or learning? When will I do it?

Notice that we are giving ourselves clear deadlines. We will not allow this process to escape from us, to bury itself in a pile of routine to-do's. By conducting a firm recapitulation we will force it to stand up and be counted, and to allow us to squeeze the last drop of learning and experience from the event before we let it slide away into the past.

Try to do this as soon after the event as possible, before the rest of your life starts to pressure you to move on to other things. This way, we can get maximum learning and understanding from what has just happened, and the learning becomes integrated into our thoughts.

Author's Bio: 

Born and raised in England, Diana Gardner Robinson left school at sixteen and came to the United States in her twenties. She subsequently completed several graduate degrees in psychology and became a Certified Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counselor in New York State. While working in the addictions field she also took two years of training as a professional life coach and opened her coaching business in 1997. In addition to her coaching, she has been an addictions counselor and now teaches future addictions counselors. Her life experience has been wide, and this enables her to coach around issues of life balance and a wide range of stumbling blocks that, if we are not in balance, may trip us up or block our way. Visit her website for more information http://www.thebalancedcoach.com/