Whether we attend a formal training program or receive on-the-job training, I believe the following seven underlying beliefs make us ineffective learners, especially in business.
1. Learning is an Intellectual Process
When did we learn the most? That’s right, when we were a little child; when our cognitive, intellectual brain was not yet fully formed. But as we get older, we begin to form opinions about things. We begin to reject more of the stuff that enters the mind. Intelligence becomes a filter through which we let ourselves get influenced by some things but reject the rest. Now for the most part, that’s a good thing. But when it comes to learning, it’s not.
The fact is, when we are intellectually engaged, we are not learning. When we are engaged intellectually - for example, in a speech or a book – when a part of our brain is analyzing the material and comparing it to everything else we know – we are actually filtering. We are validating what we already know. We are not changing. We are not letting ourselves get influenced. True Learning happens when we set aside, even if temporarily, our biases, our prejudices and our opinions. Otherwise, we are just finding supporting information to validate what we already know. And that’s not learning.
True learning is a series of “aha!” moments. When an “aha!” moment occurs, a part of us changes forever and the mind never goes back to its previous state.
New Belief: Learning is an intuitive process. It’s tapping into that faculty of us that breaks through the stuff that we think we have figured out.
2. “Getting Certified” is Mastering It
Most certifications are intellectually driven. Meaning that they are designed to get you to the point where you can “pass the test.” Nothing wrong with that. The only problem, though, is that you have gone only one-fourth of the way to mastering what you are learning. True learning takes you from head to heart, from heart to gut and from gut to actions.
The certification training works great in the academic world. Unfortunately, academics by itself can’t change your behavior or the behavior of the people in your business. If behavior does not change, your results won’t change.
In fact, I believe that the mastery of a new level of behavior and new level of results does not happen during training. It happens after the training, in the real world, applying the stuff that was taught in the class. A test is logical, step-by-step and ideological. There a “right” or a “wrong” answer; there is pass or fail. Real world is not so pretty. Real world is often messy, unpredictable and inconsistent.
That’s why, mastery requires that we not only cognitively understand the material but can also apply it artfully and skillfully in the real world.
New Belief: I have mastered a new skill, concept or principle only when my behaviors and actions change to get a new level of results.
3. Being Smart is Good For Learning
What does it mean to be “smart?” Here are some definitions of smartness that make us ineffective at learning:
- Knowing a lot of stuff. More stuff on the top of the stuff we already know.
- Asking a lot of questions to the teacher or being a cynic.
- Having opinions and a convincing argument for everything
Have you heard the saying “you can’t teach anything to the guy (or gal) who knows everything?”
There is nothing wrong with being smart as it helps us function in the world. But when it comes to learning, being “smart” can actually get in the way.
Learning does require us to accept that there is something that we don’t know. That there is someone who knows more about a particular subject than I do.
To be effective at learning, we need to be humble, not smart.
New Belief: We have to be humble to be effective at learning.
4. High “Self-Esteem” Makes Us Good Students
Healthy self-esteem, self-concept or self-image is necessary to function in life. But when a part of our self-concept is “I Already Know That,” it does not allow us to open our mind to allow new knowledge to come in. This means that while we are learning, we must get our self-image out of the way before we can truly learn.
New Belief: We must be willing to drop our self-image before we can truly learn.
5. Learning is Something to Strive For
Often, we think that we we have to “push” our brain to learn, like pushing ourselves in the gym to lift that extra pound of weight or run that extra mile. While there is a place for such things in developing our brains, it’s not true learning.
You don’t have to work hard to learn. In fact, if you are trying too hard, you are blocking learning. Learning is natural to us humans. Growth is our basic nature. Have you seen a tree strive to grow? Have you seen a flower work really hard to blossom?
New Belief: We must be willing to let go in order to learn.
6. Learning is Something to Do
Often, we associate learning with taking a lot of classes or reading a lot of books. Such things can trigger learning, but just because we do these things, does not mean we are learning. There does not have to be an external source that “teaches” us. Learning comes from within. The source of learning is already within us. We just need a stimulus from outside.
New Belief: Learning is something that happens to you when you open yourself up to it.
7. The Ultimate Goal of Learning is to Know Everything
The true and ultimate goal of learning is to get to the point where we realize how little we really know. Intellectually, it’s impossible to know it all. Intellect has it’s limitations. When wanting to know everything stops, wisdom dawns. When we realize the limitations of our intellect, we begin to tap into other faculties of our existence, such as intuition.
New Belief: The ultimate goal of learning is to get to the point where we realize that we really don’t know anything.
I can almost hear you saying, But I don’t know anyone who does not have these beliefs! Would you agree that a 5-year old perfectly fits the seven criteria described above? It’s simple really. All you have to do to be an effective learner is to be a child again.
Want to experience true learning? Join us at our next 360 Business Club “business workout session” where you get to practice business-building with like-minded business leaders. Or join our online meetup group.