The most important thing you can learn is how you learn. Sure, the skills you master, the information you take in, and/or the insight you gain is important. But the need to learn is ongoing. The worlds we encounter continue to pose ever more difficult challenges for us to tackle. So, we must continue to master new information and skills. It’s the only way we can hope to remain relevant and vibrant over the course of our lives.
To get started on your learning goals, ask yourself these four questions:
What subject or skill do I want to learn? Why? Why now? Desire kicks off the learning process. That is, you’ll learn something if you want to. Motivation is critical. Then again, you may need to change. There’s no alternative. You must learn and, voila, you’ll (hopefully) want to learn.
How can I learn about the subject and/or master the skill? You can listen, watch, read, write, take a class, or interview others. You can create something. You can immerse yourself in a different organization or culture. That is, we learn in different ways—often, in more than one way. For example, I learn best through writing after reading and thinking about a topic. Once I write about a topic, it becomes part of me.
Which of these options makes most sense for me? You’ll no doubt have experience with these ways to learn, and some will appeal to you more than others. For example, perhaps you learned most from your instructors’ lectures in college. So taking classes might make perfect sense to meet your learning commitments. Or, listening to podcasts or audiobooks might work equally well for you.
Which of these options do I feel comfortable and confident using? Which ones do I enjoy using? In other words, what will you actually do (as opposed to say you’re going to do) to achieve my learning goal? In other words, will you attend a class and complete assignments? Or will you painstakingly read, reflect, and write about a topic for as long as it takes? There are no right answers here. What matters is that you follow through on your commitment to learn, however that makes sense to you.
It’s taken me many years, and lots of formal education, to learn how how I learn best. I continue to return to the guidance I’ve outlined here as I plan future learning projects.