“What did you learn today?”
It’s a question that sounds familiar to most of us. You were likely asked it when you were a kid. And, if you are a parent, you’ve probably asked it of your kids too.
But when was the last time you asked it of yourself?
“What did I learn today?”
If you want to be more effective and more productive with lower stress and higher satisfaction, you ought to be asking yourself this question (at least) every day.
This question is at the heart of your personal and professional development. Development requires overcoming the status quo enough to start learning something new.
Yet, because human nature is what it is, we tend to stay where we are; Mentor not make the changes, take the effort or do what it takes to be on a personal development path.
I haven’t told you anything you don’t already know, and many articles, posts and books will talk about what I have said so far. But rather than just trying to goad you by saying, “you really oughta want to be a learner”, I’m going to give you a 7-step plan for development.
Follow these steps and you will be on a development path that will help you achieve more, and enjoy your life more – perhaps more than you’ve ever imagined.
Are you ready?
Take responsibility. No one can do this for you. Not your parents. Not your spouse. Not your best friend. And not your employer. All of these people might be able to support you. However, none of them can do it for you. If you wait for your employer to offer assistance or to pay for the workshop, you might be waiting a long time. If you wait for your spouse to buy you the master class in photography you are interested in, you better be patient. Why must you do this for yourself, even for professional development? Because you are the person who benefits the most! Your development belongs to no one but y-o-u. If others offer assistance, dollars or opportunities, great – just don’t wait for that assistance to get started.
Create a learning focus. Long before asking, “What did I learn today?” ask yourself, “What do I want (or need) to learn today?” Human beings are learning beings – in some ways we can’t not learn. But to intensify your personal development beyond happenstance or serendipity, you must be clear on what matters most right now. Create a monthly, quarterly and/or annual learning focus. Yes, of course there will be lessons learned at random times, but having this (possibly daily) focus will help you consciously and intentionally learn the skills and knowledge that is most important to your growth right now.
Tie it to a powerful ‘why.’ Why do you want to learn? What value will you gain – be it personal satisfaction, pleasure or a leg up for the next promotion? Tie your learning focus to things that matter to you deeply. Reminding yourself of this why will help maintain your discipline, keep you motivated and improve the chances you keep learning.
Connect everything together. Now that you have a clear picture of what you are focused on learning along with your powerful ‘why;’ connect everything you read, experience and observe to that learning goal. For example, I lead a group of leaders through the development of a new skill each month. As I prepare and facilitate the learning of those leaders, I am thinking constantly about that topic/skill. This allows my subconscious mind to see examples, lessons and connections I would miss otherwise. Once you have your learning focus in view ask yourself, “How does this experience/situation/blog post/conversation/you-get-the-idea relate to what I need to learn?” This filter will help you learn much more, much faster!
Devote time. You can tell me (or yourself) that you want to learn and grow. But the real proof is in your focus and in your calendar. To build important and valuable skills requires you to invest energy, focus and money. And more importantly, you need to invest time. Getting on a serious personal/professional development plan will require you to invest your time differently. However busy you are, it is a matter of prioritizing your learning and growth higher on your list. Get used to it, and get going.
Get help. The best in any field or endeavor don’t get there alone. And perhaps more importantly, they can’t stay there alone! Help could be in the form of workshops, mentors and more. But almost certainly the most important help will be in the form of coaching. The coaching you need might be formal or informal, internal to your organization or external, free or paid (or some of all of these). If you are serious about your personal and professional development, then make coaching part of your plan.