A life of learning and continuous improvement is necessary if you want to reach your goals and find success. Whether it’s in business, family, relationships, or any other aspect of life, developing the habit of continual growth will result in rewards beyond your imagination. The human mind is an amazing creation capable of learning new things at any age at any time. Don’t let the power of your mind go to waste, you have to actively decide to pursue new knowledge and apply it to our lives if we want to remain sharp and bright.
With that said, sometimes it can be challenging to maintain an upward growth path over the long term. This is why I’ve chosen to write about a few strategies that many successful people I know use to continually develop themselves and learn new things every day.
Learning from Experience and Experimentation
It’s common knowledge that no one ever does anything well the first time. When people attempt a new skill or work towards understanding a difficult concept, it’s not unusual to make mistakes. Experimentation, exploration, and a curious desire will go a long way to teaching yourself new methods and new concepts. Over time, your experience, trials, and mistakes will result in the eventual achievement of a new goal or skill.
Consider this website for a moment. When I was a teenager I didn’t know much about web development or how to get my ideas out onto the internet for others to read. I began to learn about the subject by reading and researching what was needed to begin writing and publishing on the Internet. Eventually, I started experimenting with different platforms and started to learn how things really work. Today, I write for several platforms and have content all over the web. I wager that I have probably written well over 1,000 articles by now. Does this mean that I’ve made it and that I’m done learning? Of course not. In fact, I still feel like an “internet infant.” There is still so much that I don’t know about and so much more to learn.
In the above example, I tended to rely on my past experience to help guide where I needed to go in the future. I still experiment, take calculated risks, and spend a good deal of time reading and studying from others who are further ahead of me. My past experience helps to focus my efforts forward, however, I also remain open-minded so that I don’t miss new opportunities. This is what leaders do. In other words, leaders recognize that we actually don’t have all the answers and that we do in fact have plenty of things to learn.
“A man who asks is a fool for five minutes. A man who never asks is a fool for life.” – Chinese Proverb
To Learn More, Create a Learning Environment
If the environment is ripe for learning, then learning will be much easier. For example, a school is one of the most iconic learning environments. When students are attending a school, they are quite literally placed in an environment conducive to learning new things. However, learning environments don’t have to be formal like this example. While lessons can be learned in any location at any time, it’s important to arrange your home and work life in such a way that learning becomes more efficient.
In a work environment, good leaders create a climate that encourages learning, risk-taking, innovating, and improving one’s self. At my place of employment, one thing that the leaders have done is to create a book club to encourage people to read and discuss books about leadership, management, and personal development. Of course, I am a part of this venture. The benefits of reading are well known. Moreover, when reading is done in a group setting it accomplishes many things: 1) People of the group are held accountable to read before each meeting, 2) The concepts and ideas in the books can be discussed and applied to work experiences, both past, present, and future and 3) The relationship of those in the book club tends to be strengthened as trust is improved amongst the members.
In addition to setting up deliberate workplace efforts to learn and grow, you also have to ensure that your employees can come to you will new ideas. Good leaders will foster an environment that promotes improvement and innovation. You can delegate authority to your employees and even create a system that rewards behaviors that save the company time or money. Employees should also have access to the training materials that they both need and desire in order to give them ample opportunity to improve themselves and ultimately their work performance
Leaders are Active Learners
Being an active learner means taking deliberate action in order to learn more things and improve yourself. Being an active participant in your own personal growth is not easy. It will take time and effort to accomplish. In addition, being an active learner often means doing something every day to improve yourself while also making sacrifices to get better.
“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” – Abigail Adams.
One of the most powerful and influential things that you can do is to read as many books as you can. A typical book may take 4-6 hours to read. By reading a little bit each day, you can start finishing one book every two weeks. I make it a point to read something every day. Sometimes I can only get in 15 minutes whereas on other days I can read for two or more hours. My schedule is hectic (as is most people’s), however, the important point here is that I make the effort to read every day.
Another thing to focus on to be an active learner is to partake in as much training as you can. Sign up for every seminar, conference, and talk that you can attend. Even if you don’t leave the seminar with a full working knowledge of what was discussed, you’ll still take away something that will make you better. When attending classes and training sessions, be sure to actively take notes. These will help to solidify concepts in your mind through the act of writing. In addition, you’ll also have a reference that you can go back to when you need a refresher.
A third strategy is to start avoiding negative or neutral behaviors that don’t add any value to your life. Things like mindless TV watching and internet surfing are among the two worse things that you will likely find yourself involved in. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time out to enjoy a movie with the family or to occasionally surf the web for new ideas and perspectives. However, the important point here is that you need to employ moderation when it comes to these habits.
Being an active learner ultimately means developing new daily habits that support your effort to continually grow and improve. For some people, this may mean scheduling time to do brain expanding activities. For others, this could mean setting up “triggers” (like strategically placing a book by your desk so that you will read it) to help create a simple routine to learn more. Continuous learning is an important trait of great leaders and successful people.