Learning to learn–well!

Today I want to share with a story told by a leader at one of the previous companies I worked with which is close to my heart. I am sure it will resonate with a lot of you too. I have tried to keep it as much verbatim to avoid diluting the message.

Promod shared a story about his friend. He had noticed his friend seemed to be more energized, lively, eager and open. He felt his friend was indeed onto something. It turned out the secret recipe was from a sense of rejuvenation he was feeling since the time he became a dad for the first time a couple of years ago. Watching how his daughter thrived in the environment around her, and how she approached life, had re-awakened the child within him. This in turn had revived the “continuous learning” that he felt was the main ingredient behind the positive change. This was an interesting reminder of a something we often forget—continuous learning, not just learning…

In Promod’s words continuous learning is best described as “our ability to learn to learn“. It applies to our personal life and professional work experiences. When nurtured explicitly in the right environment, it can provide us with invaluable tools to enrich ourselves in every aspect. Just as his friend had discovered while watching his daughter, he felt the key traits to becoming a continuous learner are to:

  • be open in our views
  • accept feedback
  • be willing to adapt
  • apply acquired information
  • know what is important
  • set priorities accordingly
  • take on active roles

Clear understanding of goals and objectives helps to create an environment that encourages development of these behaviors be it at work or in our personal lives. Promoting a culture that fosters free exchange of ideas, time to listen, reflect, and adapt propels this further. Promod always said this culminates not only in achieving our goals, but also in retaining and disseminating the learning gathered during the journey to be re-applied within this continuous cycle for better outcomes.

It is observed children flourish in such open environments and have many of the traits to continuously learn. As we get older, we tend to forget what worked so well for us, choosing to become experts in narrow domains while giving up the broader learning experiences that surround us everywhere. Although this may seem a necessity to stay competitive in today’s world, if we could manage to recapture this part of our childhood and apply it as a basis for all learning we could help get better in all parts of our life.

While each of us could find a method to “continuously learn”, a very powerful method I think is to not unlearn what we learn. Think of it, while it is essential for all of us to keep learning continuously, would it not be nice if we did not unlearn key lessons as we learn those during various phases of our lives? There are instances in our lives when we experience certain feelings in the most pure and deepest form. As time passes by, these begin to dilute. For instance, think of the trust we place in our parents when we let our fingers slip into their hands before taking our first step. The trust, at this point, is greatest and unquestioned. With time, this feeling seems to get watered down. The trust we place in people in the later parts of our lives is not necessarily of the same intensity and pureness. Would it not be nice if we tried “not to unlearn” these feelings and tried to make it our endeavour to instil these back in the same unadulterated form? This attempt at trying to learn continuously and trying not to unlearn certain things will help us internalize learning’s for better outcomes. Else it can be reduced to a wave of the ocean that meets the coast and tracks back again! Examples are galore. Even if we just pick a sample that most of us would have experienced in our life at one point of the other in one form or the other. 

  1. Determination: The determination a toddler holds is really amazing. Repeated attempts are made to cover even a little ground. A toddler stumbles many times. However, rather than getting bogged down, sports a smile instead and tries again-until he has made it.
  2. Fair competition: As kids, we lark about for the mangoes in the grove and each one of us tries to make the biggest catch. This is not done in the spirit to out-do other friends, but to only get a bigger loot at the end of it for everyone to share.
  3. Belief: The belief that we place in our schoolteachers is totally unbending. During early school days, we never tend to question or doubt anything that our teachers have to say.
  4. Achievement: The sense of achievement that we experience after completing the first task we perform independently, is immense. This task in itself could vary for each one of us, but the idea sure rings some bells when we think of it.
  5. Zest: There is something about the zest with which we work at first job. This enthusiasm to do something new and the willingness to make a meaningful contribution towards the company’s objective, in most cases, is unfathomable.

As we can see, learning is a great way for us to be well prepared for newer challenges and situations we face in every facet of our lives. A great way to walk that path is to continuously learn with an intent to internalize some of the key learnings such that we do not unlearn them! Of course the lists for both aspects would be unique to each person. So, with that I’d like to leave you with some food for thought and a large space to add to this list, as you deem right.

 

~ Seema Joshi

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