How to engage yourself in continuous learning

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.

Carl Rogers

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

John.F.Kennedy

In today’s ever-changing world, it is important to increase one’s capacity to learn in order to understand and keep up with the developments happening around us. The old days of learning one time and then never develop our skills and knowledge again are fading fast. Continuous learning is fast becoming the part of people’s work culture in order to stay relevant in the changing economic, business or working environment. It is not only important for better performance in professional life, but also for the continued success in one’s personal life. As life changes, the need to be up-to-date with the latest knowledge to be flexible and easily adaptable to any changes that may be required is essential to accomplish individual goals. Research shows that people who think and act from the same set of skills, techniques or knowledge are prone to stagnate and underperform or derail from their main objectives.

Also, the manner in which new normal has brought about significant changes to our life, personal as well as professional, where each one of us had to focus on adapting to the unprecedented changes happening around us, one must make an effort to stay up-to-date with the new information and must improve their capacity to learn. Things are changing rapidly at every workplace and organisations are upgrading technologies and up-skilling their work force to adapt themselves to changes. In the age of digital world and remote working, learning new skills has become imperative and so is the need to continuously reinvent oneself. Learning thus in the present times is no longer a matter of gaining more than others but has become a matter of survival in the changed environment.

Thinking in terms of “I already know enough to get by” makes one limited in terms of improving or growing. Highly successful often are lifelong learners. Committing yourself to learning and growing or developing yourself adds value to who you are and what you have to offer. The fact is becoming a continuous learner is a must if you want to achieve and maintain success in an ever-changing world. The key to knowledge is constantly evolving , and we should learn each and every day to stay relevant, lest we get left behind with outdated information.

What is continuous learning

Continuous learning is defined by the practices the individual carries out daily in order to continue increasing knowledge. At an individual level, it is about the constant expansion of skills and skill-sets in order to perform work-related tasks effectively and adapt to changes. On a professional level, continuous learning is about further expanding our skill-set in response to latest developments and changing environment. At an organisational level, it has to do with shaping a team to adapt to changes in the business environment. It includes aspects like willingness to learn from life experiences, explore, experiment, seek feedback regularly and reflect systematically. Continuous learners possess learning mindset that makes them experiment, innovate and often try and stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones. They orient themselves towards learning and mastering new skills and strategies to grow in their field of work. Continuous learning involves being open to new experiences, people and information. For instance, asking for help when something is not understood, observing more experienced people in your field of work, trying new ways of doing things or exploring alternative methods.

Growth mindset and continuous learning.

Our beliefs about ourselves, others and the world around us play a crucial role in determining how oriented we become towards learning new things and so is our mindset in driving our actions, behaviours, which result in our success, our growth and our development. Our mindset thus is fundamental in growing our knowledge. It’s more important than inherent ability to learn. We fail to keep up with change or growing opportunities around us when we believe that our qualities are fixed and thinking that we have certain kind of intelligence or personality. People with this mindset tend to misestimate their abilities. This turns them into non-learners and are not flexible enough to adapt to changes.

On the contrary, people with growth mindset strongly believe that intelligence or personality is something that can be developed and so we can always make an effort to improve ourselves. All learning strategies, tools and techniques are almost useless if we don’t combine them with a strong, growth based learning mindset. Our brains capacity to learn is infinite and our skills can be grown to change our innate talents. Having growth mindset is the base on which one can build a continuous learning culture.

When we think about continuous learning, we are talking about constant development of skills, and behaviours that are aligned with one’s personal or professional goals. This means having an openness to see mistakes, willingness to take risks, and having a desire to improve themselves. So, a growth mindset is something you need to practice if you want to be a continuous learner. Even at an organisational level, a growth-based mindset lets you come up with right processes, structure and systems in place that are reflective of the peoples’ current needs instead of rigid processes that are no longer relevant and needed. By adopting a growth mindset, you can value challenges and use change as an opportunity to learn.

Why is it important to be a continuous learner

It helps in personal growth. Gaining knowledge not only keeps one’s body and mind active, but also opens doors to new opportunities for growth. It helps in developing new perspectives, motivated and helps us grow in confidence. The present times where things are changing drastically, to stay relevant and survive depends entirely on your ability to adapt, up-skill and learn new things. Development of new skill is one of the benefit and having the habit of constantly learning makes you perfect in your own field. Such people, besides doing their tasks with perfection, also can be helpful to others and become most sought after in their field of work, workplaces and organisations.

• It increases personal value. Learning is a continuous process. Being freshly stocked with knowledge enables you to come up with more ideas and solutions and this way you can add more value to the work you do. Because of the pandemic, where most organisations are reducing their workforce, employees who can learn, guide and adapt to new situations are most sought after. Due to the high value attached, workplaces could go an extra mile to hire or retain skilled individuals. Thus the ability to learn new things and adapt to new situations can become a deciding factor in becoming successful and less successful in present scenarios.

It improves personal and organisational productivity. Organisations that prioritise continuous learning prove to have more productive workforce and economical with their available resources like time and money. At an organisational level, it helps this is important because ever-changing economic climate demands that people be up-to-date with the latest knowledge and also be flexible and easily adaptable to any changes that maybe required. On a personal level, It improves one’s skills and capabilities to the point where they become effective problem solvers and can teach or guide their peers and coworkers. For instance, working from home needs you to be more aware of available online tools and resources to maximise your or your team’s productivity.

It helps in employee engagement and retaining. Embracing a culture of investing in people plays a role in training your team or people rather than hiring new people which can be come at a cost on different levels. Encouraging continuous learning culture helps to build trust and keeps workforce more engaged and interested in coming up with solutions at an organisational level. Remaining up-to-date can help you respond to workplace/company business’s ever-changing needs. Organisations like to retain such people who prove themselves to be more relevant and add value to their workplace needs.

• It helps in being creative and innovative. Continuous learning helps you make connections across experiences in order to adopt to new perspectives or approaches and to let go those that are no longer useful. It improves your capacity to unlearn old patterns that are no longer relevant. It helps you develop creative and innovative ways of thinking to keep up with the evolving trends in today’s world.

How to engage yourself in continuous learning

The ability to learn things is a tremendous asset and people who can rapidly grasp new concepts, learn and apply new and effective skills, and process new information have an advantage over those who cannot. When you continue to learn, you will also learn more about yourself and create more opportunities and experiences. Here are some tips to engage yourself in continuous learning.

Experiment with new approaches or behaviours.

You can experiment with new approaches to develop a learning mindset. Look for connections and different perspectives to come up with new possibilities. Reflect on a challenge you’re facing and ask yourself questions such as ‘What’s one thing I could do to change the outcome of a situation?”and “What will I do differently in the future?” You can also try out new possibilities by trying a different point of view. For instance, if you are leading a team whom you feel are highly talented, holding on to a perspective that you should know more than them in order to be seen as credible, causes stress and at the same time results in undermining your credibility.

By letting go of assumption that you have to be expert in the matter you are dealing with, you can adopt to a new perspective such as adding greater value by facilitating new ideas and solutions. To develop expertise, try different ways, compare one another on various solutions they can lead to, and discuss with others in the related area. Asking yourself, how you might apply that knowledge to your current challenge an help you arrive at new perspective.

Learn from others

One of the best ways to learn from others is through teamwork, cooperation and collaboration. Work to overcome your conscious and unconscious biases and acknowledge the strengths and attributes of those around you. Shared thinking can expand your mindset and returns greater value than solo thinking because when you learn from others, the compounding action of shared thinking with successful people moves your knowledge faster. The more you respect the wisdom of others, the more you listen and learn. Even beyond the immediate need to solve a particular problem, listening to how others approach busines or their personal lives can filip a switch in your thinking, leading to a breakthrough or a new insight.

Ask for feedback

To engage yourself into learning habit, you need access to right resources, knowledge, network, learning strategies and most importantly feedback. Think of one or more people who interacted with you or observed your performance on a given task. Tell them you would value their perspective on how you did, and ask what you could do differently the next time. To maximise your learning capacity, restrain any urge to defend yourself. Receive the feedback constructively by asking yourself as to what you can do to improve. Reduce your defensiveness to learn and adopt to thinking like, ‘there has to be better way,’ and ‘I don’t know it yet’. If you hold the view that there is always more to learn and embrace the unfamiliar, you can free your mind to overcome criticism.

Be curious

The desire to learn requires curiosity about the world. A curious mind wants to know more as it longs for new challenges, ideas and experiences and isn’t satisfied with the status quo. Be inquisitive to develop an all-round vision for yourself and look for alternative ways to do things or solve problems. Be open to new possibilities or opportunities that comes your way to explore and experiment. Being curious is not only about reading or gathering information, but also taking this information and putting into practice. Practicing what has been learned already or finding ways to improve your current knowledge or perspectives makes you want to learn more.

Make time for reflection.

Reflection is most important aspect of continuous learning. Systematically reflecting on work or personal experiences boosts learning mindset. It helps you learn from your mistakes. To ensure continuous progress, get into the habit of asking yourself, “What have I learned from this experience?” and “What turned out differently than I expected?” People who reflect regularly not only correct themselves, but also are grown in contextual awareness.

Create a supportive environment to learn

One way to grasp new concepts is to share your knowledge is by teaching others and forge a learning habit in your teams or foster a continuous learning culture in your workplaces. Creating a supportive environment encourages workforce to engage in continuous learning at an organisational level. Some will be self-motivated and will take up continuous learning whereas others need time and resources. Create an atmosphere that promotes continuous learning and a learning plan by providing access to resources for self-paced courses or online learning opportunities. A

Set Learning goals

To be a continuous learner, you should have a clear idea of the results you want to see. Know how much time you can devote to your learning and what you want to learn or areas where you need to improve upon and establish goals, look for resources and set timeframes. For instance, if you are working on a project, then you might consider learning one of the relevant software that will help you manage it and keep track of its progress. Finding out what are the best existing online tools to learn, how long will it take and setting a time frame depending on your schedule can help you learn it faster. Allocate few hours per day/week for learn and stick to your plan. If you find yourself losing interest, remind yourself how it can benefit you in the long run.

Commit to learning

Commit to learning things that are relevant to your work, align with your interests, or your business needs. Learning at this level puts you in a positive state of mind and inspires you to raise your standards and increase your value as an expert. When you commit to continuous learning, you constantly improve yourself and gain a competitive edge in your work or business. One way to commit is by scheduling your learning time. A lifelong learner is more at an individual level where one commits to learning new skills or acquiring new knowledge and incorporates it as part of their lifestyle. Set aside at least half an hour a day to build up that skill in the area of expertise that you need to acquire.

Choose a method that suits you

You can engage yourself in learning either by choosing to read about something new every day or via learning initiatives from within the organisation like workshops, conferences or working with co-workers. It can be also via formalised learning like pursuing a degree or certification, taking up training programs or online seminars outside of work to help you improve in your relevant field. It can also be through social learning like discussion, collaboration, conferencing, or networking. And also can be self-directed learning like researching and reading from books or blogs to gain deeper understanding or insights. Social media newsfeeds and work-related groups also can be a medium to learn, communicate and share knowledge. You can use various online learning platforms, to stay up-to- date with latest relevant information, news or emerging trends.

Space for reflection

When is the last time you engaged yourself in learning something new?

Are you still in the habit of learning new things?

Do you have learning goals or How willing are you to be a continuous learner?

How aware are you of your learning ability?

How do you hope to improve on your relevance of your knowledge?

When faced with a challenge, do you hold yourself back because of your limitations in regard to what you know?

Do you engage in your workplace learning initiatives to learn new skills?

How often do you look for opportunities to learn and grow in your chosen field?

Are you willing to better yourself? Are you ready to take the first step towards becoming a continuous learner?

To conclude,

Success and personal growth will only happen if you live with a learning/growth mindset. Our brains always crave certainty and feel more comfortable sticking with the status quo rather than exploring something new. However, in our ever-changing world, we need to continually learn new and different things. Every bit of knowledge we learn thus will help us transform our perspective on life. Adopt the above tips to engage yourself in continuous learning. Be curious, experiment and explore.

Learning something new can be uncomfortable, but also is a commitment to your own improvement, well- being, and happiness. It is important to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities and work through the discomfort of experiences that may not be successful right away. If you remain committed and expand your boundaries, you will get better. If you set a learning goal this year, rather than seeking perfection, acknowledge your progress. If your fixed mindset is holding you back from prioritising learning, remind yourself that our brain’s capacity to learn is infinite and we can always strive towards improving our skills and innate talents. Make an effort to build a continuous learning culture in your personal as well as professional life.

Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience.

Denis Whitley

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