As most of us settle into the COVID-19 working-from-home life, I’m reminded of just how important learning is in our lives. Whether we’re doing it for personal or professional development, learning keeps our minds and skills sharp. It not only staves off boredom, it also keeps us from becoming boring people! Getting older—or getting seniority in our jobs—has its pluses and minuses. On the one hand, you can finish day-to-day tasks with ease by relying on past experiences, document templates, and standardized steps. But without ongoing learning, your personal satisfaction and effectiveness in the workplace will suffer.
I recently started a fun interaction on my social media channels called the Blanchard Campfire. Each Friday I pose a question and open it up for discussion in the comments section. Last Friday’s question was, “What have you learned during the COVID-19 pandemic?”
The answers inspire me and underscore the joy and importance of continuous learning. Here are a few of the things people said about what they’re learning:
“I’m staying current in my job by learning many things I overlooked all these years.”
“I’m learning how important motivation and perseverance are.”
“When life slows down, families grow stronger.”
“I’m rethinking my work role.”
“I’m studying a new language.”
“I’m strengthening my video development skills.”
“I’ve learned that we really do not have control of the future, so we need to love unconditionally.”
“I’m learning to teach an online course.”
If you’ve ever worked on a computer that hasn’t been tuned up in a while, you might have noticed that it can get sluggish. The same thing happens to us as individuals. We need rebooting and updated software from time to time, and this pandemic is a great opportunity to refresh and reset our professional lives.
To help you reboot, I’ve created a short quiz, adapted from the book I wrote with Mark Miller, Great Leaders GROW: Becoming a Leader for Life. Read each question and give an honest yes or no answer.
- Do I have up-to-date knowledge about my industry?
- Do I share my knowledge with others?
- Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?
- Do I have a mentor in my field?
- Do I have a personal development plan?
If you answered no to any of the questions above, that’s a great place to start. For example, if you’re new to an industry or have fallen behind on the latest developments in it, take the following steps:
- Set a goal to become knowledgeable in a specific area of your industry.
- Set a deadline to complete your learning. As my wife, Margie, often says, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.”
- Take action to achieve your goal: read relevant books and articles, take online classes and tutorials, or participate in webinars that will fill in your knowledge gaps. Take advantage of any educational opportunities your employer may offer. And don’t overlook the value of finding a mentor in your field.
- Reward your progress. When you’ve finished a book, tutorial, or class, give yourself a pat on the back or treat yourself in a way that makes you feel good.
Go through this process with items 1 through 5 in the quiz above and turn your no answers into yes answers. When you’ve done them all, start over and do them again. The point is to continue to grow along your learning journey.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting your expectations too high. Remember, perfection is the enemy of excellence. That’s why I suggested that you reward yourself as you make progress, not just when you complete the goal.
And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do it perfectly. Suppose you wanted to teach a child to say, “Please give me a glass of water.” If you waited until the child said the whole sentence before you gave them any water, they’d die of thirst. So, you start off by saying, “Water! Water!” Suddenly, one day the child says “waller.” You burst into a smile, hug and kiss the child, and get grandma on the phone so the child can say “waller, waller.” It isn’t “water,” but it’s close. Be as compassionate with yourself as you’d be with that child, and praise yourself for progress, not perfection, as you work toward your goals.
Brian Herbert said, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” So, choose learning today—you’ll never regret it!