Are you paid what you’re worth?
Let’s see . . . you’ll probably compare the salary and benefits that you receive with the value that you provide to your organization. Right?
Did you ever consider how much you learn every day? Huh?
While money gets depleted over time, your experience remains with you for life. You’ll be able to leverage that know-how into a better position within your existing organization or offer it to your next employer. That being said, investing in yourself may be the best investment you’ll ever make. Period. And that begins with learning.
Learning to Learn
Learning requires more than attending lectures and regurgitating what you’ve heard. It requires you to be both teacher and student, to learn from books and personal experiences, and to be able to apply lessons learned to real-world situations.
Here are a few areas where learning can take place:
A new perspective. While memorization is often defined as learning, the practical application of knowledge shouldn’t take a back seat. Rather than viewing things in isolation, we should learn to connect the dots and to discover patterns and trends. Instead of quick-fix problem solving, we should learn to address each problem’s root causes.
And how! We currently spend the majority of our time learning “what and when.” We should also focus sufficient attention on the process –– “how” things are done. For example, it’s critical to learn how to communicate more effectively, build relationships, establish priorities, increase efficiency, and improve our time-management skills.
A fresh look at life. We spend so much time running on the “treadmill of life” that we rarely have time to properly define our beliefs and values, short- and long-term priorities, and discover our purpose in life. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we lived life on autopilot and then regretted our default path when it was too late to change course?
Make time for you. Many people take things for granted until they lose them. When was the last time that you took the time to learn about healthy living, reducing stress, or the best way to achieve work/family balance?
A New School of Thought
Here are a few ways to learn:
Act like a kid. When we’re young, we continually ask “why?” When we get older, however, we get defensive and feel inadequate if we don’t have all the answers. It’s time to learn like a kid again.
Broaden your world. Surrounding yourself with “yes” people is like talking to yourself. Listen to people with viewpoints other than your own. Try to see their side of the issue instead of living your life with blinders on.
Break out of the rut. Everyone likes routines. Learn by breaking them. Cover the same ground from different angles. Take a new route. Speak to new people. Get information from different sources.
Request feedback. Are you getting ready for a presentation or an interview? Don’t be shy . . . request feedback from a colleague. Most people would be honored to help you. Remember, it’s a lot better to learn in a non-threatening environment than when it’s “game time.”
Learn from mistakes. Do you have twenty years of experience or one year of experience repeated twenty times? If you’re blind to your weaknesses, you may be repeating mistakes rather than correcting them. Remember, practice makes perfect — unless you’re making the same mistakes over and over again.
Critique your actions. Football teams spend countless hours watching game footage to determine how to improve individual performance and build a winning team. Take the time to reflect on your experiences and learn from them. For example, ask yourself, if you had the opportunity to perform an activity again, how would you do it differently?
Increase your expectations. If you want to become a better tennis player, play with someone better than yourself. The same is true in other areas of your life. You’re not going to improve if you don’t accept challenges and learn from them. Step out of your comfort zone to “up” your game.
Success is a journey, not a destination. Winning is not a black-and-white experience in which losers explore ways to improve and winners receive a bye. Even winners should identify ways to improve on their performance.
Live and Learn
The great thing about self-directed, sometimes called informal, learning is that you own it. You determine what you want to learn, establish when the learning will take place, and have the opportunity to tailor it to your personal needs. There’s no forced curriculum, there are no required exams, and there are absolutely no grades — except the ones you give yourself. Your only test is how much knowledge you’re able to soak in and apply to your professional and personal life.
The world is at your fingertips. All you have to do is open your eyes and ears and begin taking it all in. The fact is, learning is as much an attitude as it is an activity. As the Buddhist proverb says, “When the student is ready, the master appears.”
So, promise yourself to begin today. Open your mind to new horizons — energize yourself by connecting with the world around you — and promise yourself that you’ll strive for excellence. It’ll change your perspective, it’ll change your potential, and it’ll change your life.
As Vernon Howard once said, “Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” Live and learn!