We asked a number of bloggers: “How do you make sure that you are continually growing and learning new things?” There answers provide some great starting points for creating your own personal improvement plan. (3638)
I try to remain curious. I constantly challenge my own thinking … even when I don’t want to. Take blogging for example. I thought it was a fad and refused to get involved. But after a while I wondered why I was adamantly against it … and I opened up my sense of curiosity and jumped in.
Being curious opens you to the world of new ideas and challenges your own sense of the status quo. Feeding your curiosity ensures you are always learning.
I’m facing a similar dilemma when it comes to online games/virtual worlds. On one hand, I think they are a waste of time, but I also don’t want to miss learning something important or a different way to view the world.
The best way to make sure that you are continually learning new things is to pursue a career that challenges you and pushes you out of your comfort zone (in a good way). What could be better than learning every day and getting paid for it? Even if your job provides learning opportunities (and especially if it doesn’t), I think it’s a good idea to also seek other ways of expanding your horizons on a regular basis. I regularly take classes and seminars in areas outside of my areas of professional expertise and read books on a wide range of topics. I have gotten some of my best ideas from very unexpected places.
I think everyone should take a few minutes at least once a year and decide what the current work zone is. It is easy to get use to not learning anything and settle in for many years without realizing it.
Have an open mind and lose the foolish ego. No matter how talented or knowledgeable you think you are as far as a certain field is concerned, you can rest assured that there is always room for improvement. In the end, you will be the only one losing out if you choose to live in denial.
Ego also tends to make people not like you–even if you are every bit as good as you think you are.
I think the most important thing is to remain interested. By that I mean that you should be interested in the world around you, other people an new developments.
Taking an interest in things takes you in new directions, stops you getting too rooted in one place. Simply taking an interest in what your friends are doing can lead you down new paths and onto new and exciting things.
Katy Whitton from Flipping Heck! Productivity, Project Management & Motivation Blog (rss)
This goes back to Pamela’s suggestion to make sure your career is keeping your interest.
By continuously pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It’s there, and only there, where growth can be found.
“Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone” ~ Robert Allen
Good point. If you are comfortable, then you probably aren’t reaching your full potential.
The best way I know to continue to grow and learn is to set up a life that is conducive to risk taking. The times you learn the most are when you have no idea what’s in front of you.
It’s very hard to take risks if you have heavy financial needs. You cannot change careers, you cannot take time off from working, you cannot have slip-ups where you fail to earn money in an unpredictable way.
Keep financial needs way down, or at least way flexible so that you can take risks that force you to learn about yourself.
Penelope Trunk from Brazen Careerist
Early on, my wife and I decided to live well below our means. This has enabled us to do all kinds of things that are completely out of reach for most people. I constantly encounter people who can’t understand how we can spend so much time traveling or doing other things that are important to us. But most of those people spend 75% of their income on expenses that we don’t even incur.
Keep on moving. Meet new people. Enroll on formal courses. Allocate time and money to learning. I commit 20% of my time to it. I’d like to commit more. It is the best investment of time you can make.
The 20% rule sounds similar to Google letting employees spend 20% of their time on pretty much any project that interests them.
Surround yourself with highly motivated and talented people.
Tatsuya Nakagawa from Product Life
Easier said than done, but very valuable advice.
As a software consultant, I learned a long time ago that not learning new technologies would be fatal to my career. Working as I do with many projects and technologies, I am constantly learning.
In the non-technical parts of my life, I try to keep pushing my skills and knowledge. For example, in crafting, with each new project I try to learn new techniques or new crafts. For productivity and simplicity, I read, and try things out.
I view my life as a giant experiment of best practices that evolves over time.
When you start lagging behind on learning new things, you are headed downhill. It can be quite a challenge to identify when that is occurring though.
Keep a queue. Always have fresh ideas lined up that can fill your time whenever you find any. Whenever I see one of my projects winding down, I know its time to start the next idea in line.
A list can help make sure you pick the most valuable thing to pursue. Without it, you’ll tend to pick something that comes to mind–not necessarily what you feel is most important.
College is important, but it isn’t a determining factor to be successful in life. I believe that a good work ethic, a willingness to learn, and honesty will take you a long way. Having said that, I am currently attending college 20 years after graduating high school.
I think college is pretty valuable, but most people see it as a 4 year one time investment. Getting a degree out of high school should be just part of your life long educational plan. I’ve been enrolled in a college course of some type for the last 15 years and am working on finishing up my second master’s degree. With all the distance education opportunities it is significantly easier to keep yourself educated than it was even 10 years ago.
I enjoy reading and so I often peruse the aisles of my favorite book store and will always discover a book that would lend some insight from a different perspective.
I often write and with all the thoughts that collect from my reading and time alone, I tend to sort of bits of wisdom which often inspire me to find more!
Another method I truly enjoy is speaking to people from all different walks of life. I learn so much when I spend time with the elderly or check out the recommendations of new friends who also seek growth or experience a sense of balance, peace and happiness.
I like to go to bookstores and find sections I know nothing about and see what new things I can learn.
I take a step back and see if I’m generally comfortable with everything I’m doing. If so, I know that I’ve stagnated to some degree and need to push myself to do things that I’ve never done before. If you’re comfortable with where you are, you know it’s time to move on.
If you have no fear of failure in your current projects, you probably are operating well below your potential. I don’t think people realize how dangerous it is to stagnate in their job–5 years of not learning anything new is deadly to a career.
First, by reading something outside of the things I know and believe everyday. Second, by trying to make the things I think about become real, whether that’s expressing an idea, creating a new tool, or drawing a picture that represents what I’m thinking about. Thirdly, I talk to as many different people as I can, as everyone brings new ideas and perspectives to learn to the table. Lastly, I always try to do something better today than I did it yesterday.
Charlie makes a good point about working on continual improvement. If you get a little better every day, your growth over a few years can be tremendous.
It’s just part of my DNA. I don’t know any other way to be in the world!
Well that probably makes things easier. :)
Reading blogs, listening to Audio books, and listening to the news and talk radio.
I’m a big fan of audio books. Recently I’ve been experimenting with summaries of audio books. The are good and bad points, but it helps you cover a lot of ground very quickly–useful if you want to make sure you are abreast of any new things in a particular field.
This is what I live for. Personal development and the study of personal change is my passion, so it’s not hard to keep moving forward.
When I’m trying to implement a dramatic change or improve rapidly I like to set up some type of crazy challenge for myself – something like eat a vegan diet for a month. By doing this I raise the bar extremely high. At the end of the month when I let myself backslide I don’t go all the way back to where I started. Instead, I’ve improved but the improvement seems easy compared to the challenge.
That an interesting tactic. Kind of like running with weights or at a higher altitude while you are training.