It’s a New Year, and as humans are apt to do, we look back and take stock of the accomplishments and missed opportunities of the year past. There is one siren song that reaches out to most of us, “I wish I had taken time for myself.” This is either in the form of personal exploration or professional growth. Either way, there are times when we feel like failures because we have left ourselves, and our intellect, out in the cold. We put our learning journey on the back burner for another day.
It’s time to put your learning first. As learning professionals, not only do we owe it to ourselves to be committed to lifelong learning, but we owe it to our organizations. We cannot make use of the latest learning technologies and modalities if our mindset isn’t one of discovery and adventure. Our organizations depend on us to be up to date with the learning applications of the day. Are we letting them and ourselves down?
Easier said than done? You may have these questions:
What do I do first?
How do I change my current mindset?
Where do I start?
All good questions. It is critical we start with a mindset of not wanting 2018 to repeat the neglected opportunities of 2017. It begins with making lifelong learning a priority. It requires seizing the day and making a commitment to your personal learning path. Choosing to commit to a learning journey can be daunting, but it can and should be fun, too. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Think of all the places you’ll go!”
In order to start, we must take a first step. These are 6 tips to help you effectively re-energize your Lifelong Learning Journey.
- Visualize the Goal: Do you start a race without knowing where the finish line is? Of course not, nor should you embark on a learning journey without some essence of an outcome. Sure, the fun is in the discovery, but set yourself up for success by identifying 2 or 3 learning goals for the year that are critical to your overall personal or professional success. Your Plan: Write down your goals, and review your progress at least once a month (see items 5 & 6 on this list). Are you on track? Have you taken your eye off the ball? Begin with the end in mind!
- Make the Effort: While having a written goal is the first critical step in your learning journey, making the effort to participate in the moment is as equally important. Wake up each morning with a plan to do something that takes you one step closer to your goal. Build challenging habits that will have you crossing the finish line. If your goal is to master graphic design, do something every day to move the needle. Watch a “how-to” video or try an “Articulate Elearning Hero Challenge”. No effort – no success. Your plan: This is a daily activity that takes no more than a few minutes of your time. You can do this.
- Seek out Learning: Find something new to learn about. There is no shortage of questions to answer or skills to develop. Don’t wait for the opportunity to come knocking at your door. Meet challenges head-on. Challenge yourself to research an answer to a question. Wouldn’t the Director of Sales appreciate you taking the time to learn the ins and outs of Salesforce.com to help them solve a pain point? Your plan: Every month, read a new book, magazine, listen to a podcast - find a new target for learning discovery.
- Take Time for Self-Reflection: What’s missing from most learning programs? Points of self-reflection -- meaning we send stuff out into the universe and then forget about it. Don’t make this mistake with your learning journey. Reflect on what you are doing. What is going well and what needs improvement? Take time to practice new skills and to unpack the “what and how”. Give yourself an opportunity to reward your efforts. This means…
- Knowing Failure is an Option: Failure is a part of life and in learning. We all will fail, or have failed at some point. Accept it and reflect on the failure and what was learned. Learning means being uncomfortable, embrace it. Schedule time once per week (a minimum of once per month) to look back and determine where you can plug gaps and strengthen skills. Ok, so your Articulate Elearning Hero’s Challenge didn’t go well, LEARN from that experience and grow. Your plan: Create a weekly or biweekly meeting with yourself to check in on your progress. Remember, self assessments are only as good as your honest commitment to the process.
- Have fun! All this learning won’t stick if you don't enjoy the process. Find something you are passionate about. Perhaps your learning journey is a mix of both professional goals and personal exploration. Find things that you connect with and make you excited. Time is too short for the boring, dull, and demotivating...be enthusiastic and the learning will find you. Your plan: Review your goals, is there something on the list that makes you smile? If not, time to review and take action.
Follow these tips and you’ll find learning is addicting. The more you learn, the more you’ll want to learn. Enjoy the challenge and adventure in front of you, and make 2018 your year to get a handle on continuing and re-energize your lifelong learning adventure.