Lifelong learning - why it's a differentiator for successful change

We all know that we are living in an ever changing world, and that the pace of change is getting faster.

To thrive, you need to adapt, and to adapt you need to be willing to learn new things.

Everyone learns differently, but one element that is common is that people learn better the more involved they are with their learning.

As the famous Confucian text said: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me and I’ll make it my own

People learn most rapidly when the learning is relevant to them, and when they take responsibility for their own learning.

It also takes deliberate practice and effort. Research from a team of psychologists in Germany in the 1990s showed that deliberate practice – not talent alone – was a factor in becoming an elite performer.

They looked at the practice habits of violin students from childhood through to adulthood. What they found was that whilst the students all started studying at the same time – age 5 – by the time they were 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10000 hours of practice, while the less able performers had only 4000 hours of practice.

Of course, this is not to say that it is practice alone that will make you successful, but what it does reveal is that practice and learning are crucial elements in determining your success.

None more so than when we are facing a change.

And yet, as we get older we can become more reluctant to try new things and do things differently. As children, we learn through playing. It is a form of experimentation, and whilst we might fail quickly at something we quickly dust ourselves off, and try again.

As adults, we can become more stuck in our ways. We all have an inner voice, which can be quite loud. It voices our fear of failure, of being judged or being held up to ridicule. Some people are better than others at silencing or ignoring that inner voice.

If we are to continue to grow and thrive through change we need to take ourselves outside our comfort zone – this is healthy! Each time we learn something new, or try something new we are challenging our brain. Our brains are muscles – so it’s just like taking your body to the gym! It’s good for you.

So if you want to thrive through change, think about what learning you may need to do. Don’t sit back and wait for someone to tell you what you need to learn – be proactive about it.

Consider this:

  • Buy a book on a topic that you have always wanted to know about, and is
    different to your day job
  • If you sit in an office all day, attend a course that requires you to
    use your hands to create something (i.e. woodwork, craft or design)
  • Go to a lecture on a subject that will broaden your field of view
  • Subscribe to online news so that you can get up to date information and
    knowledge from around the world

And of course, stay relevant in your profession. This means it is important to continuously undertake personal development. If you want to be at the top of your game – you need to be abreast of the latest thinking and ideas from your profession, and also from complementary professions.

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