Take charge of your learning

September 15th, 2011 @   -  No Comments

Whenever I participate in career fairs, the most frequently asked question by high-school students is “How much money will I make as a medical doctor or engineer or lawyer?” For them, the main, if not the only, criterion of choosing a career is how much money one can earn.

This way of thinking comes from this message: “Go to school, study hard and get good grades and you will find a well-paid job.”  This is what they continually hear from the people around them. The message stresses that having a high-paying job is the ultimate goal of education. With this kind of mindset, many students focus on getting the degree and they miss the education.

Education is much more than having good grades and a degree. True education covers all aspects of our lives. This includes spiritual, moral and character development, learning, critical thinking and innovation. Education is an endless journey of personal development and discovery. Education is only effective when it gives meaning to our lives and makes us different in a positive way.

Learning is an integral part of education. All successful people who made positive contributions are life-long learners. They worked hard at developing themselves.

How can you take charge of your learning and embark on a life-long journey of discovery? Here are a few points to help you get started:

Be open to learning

To be open to learning, you must be completely open to other people’s ideas; willing to adopt other ways of thinking; ready to get out of your comfort zone and willing to do things in a way you haven’t done before. However, there are some roadblocks to learning that you need to be aware of. Here are some: 

  • The first enemy of learning is a “know it all” attitude. You fall in this trap when you act as a knower rather than a learner. Claude Bernard once said, “It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.”
  • Ego interference. Are you willing to ask a question that will expose your ignorance? Too often we may feel embarrassed to ask questions for fear of looking stupid. You need to learn humility and never let your ego prevent you from learning.
  • Attachment to the old way. The problem sometimes is not to learn but to unlearn. In today’s ever-changing environment, if you don’t adjust and unlearn, your skills and experiences can be a liability.  

Master the art of asking questions

A child’s endless curiosity and their ability to ask questions are what help them learn and grow. Numerous research studies found that top innovators in the world have two things in common: (1) curiosity and (2) willingness to ask questions. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, ‘We run this company on questions, not answers.’  

When you rekindle your innate curiosity and unleash the power of asking questions, you will start to learn, grow and innovate. 

Listen to learn – Consider what others have to say

Do you listen more than you talk? Do you listen for truth?  Listening with the intention to learn ensures not only that you will be heard when you speak, but also the possibility that you will learn something new. John Wooden noted, “Everything we know we learned from someone else!”  

Develop the habit of reading

Reading is an exercise to your mind as physical exercise is to your body. Just think of what will happen to your body if you don’t exercise for some time. The same thing will happen to your brain if you don’t read. To develop a critical mind and broaden your perspective, you must read.

Reading also provides exposure.  And with continued exposure, you can build depth of knowledge and become an expert in your field. Earl Nightingale once said, “If a person will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years, that person will be an expert on that subject.”  This is what Ibn Rushd, the polymath, did. Ibn Rushd was a vivid reader. He pointed out that he never left reading except on two occasions: The day of his marriage and on the day of his father’s funeral. The first instruction we got from out Creator is “Read” but “in the Name of your Lord.” Read to learn with full consciousness of Him.  

Let your learning lead to action

A few months ago, my neighbour was moving away. He offered to give me some of his books. I found half of his books were on the subject of diet.  And guess what, he was extremely overweight. My neighbour certainly did a lot of reading on diet but failed to implement what he had learned. Learning without action doesn’t produce results. The goal of learning is not to accumulate knowledge but to take action to improve yourself and enrich the lives of the people around you.  

Learn from mistakes

When you take action, you will make mistakes. Mistakes are great teachers. From them you can learn firsthand what did not work and why. When you make a mistake learn from it and move on. By contrast, making excuses and figuring out who is responsible for the mistake never leads to learning. 

Pass it on

You should share your knowledge and experience to enrich the people around you and share with them some tips you have learned from your successes and failures that will save them time and energy. Accept the fact that you are not indispensable, and prepare and empower your successors. Leave a legacy. Remember, passing knowledge on is ongoing charity.

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