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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

Contrary to popular belief, learning is a necessary part of our existence. Much like we need food for our body, our brain needs nourishment through information and continuous learning.

To live a life without learning constantly is utterly unthinkable despite people’s efforts. It’s this reason I’d like to argue that we need to stop resisting and to embrace learning for specific reasons. On top of that, I’ll explain the step by step process to train your brain to help you become a continuous learner.

Why Is Continuous Learning Important?

To quote Heraclitus:

“The only thing that is constant is change.”

All around us, change happens. We change careers, our personal lives, our community or business. Even if those changes are minor, they are still changes nonetheless.

But one thing we might not realize is that one of the most effective ways for us to handle change is through learning.

How is that possible?

Learning Keeps Us Relevant

The biggest reason is relevancy: both individually and in group dynamics.

Talent LMS raised some solid points for continuous learning, particularly for individuals and groups.[1] First off, this form of learning will allow the increase in knowledge and competency in our career and overall skills.

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For example, watching someone work can make us a better worker. It might also embolden us to explore alternatives or try new things as well.

But we really start to see continuous learning shine in group dynamics. These days, we all work in teams in some capacity. Not only do we need to get along with others but, what we are learning also changes the team to a degree.

Talent LMS explains that this learning will keep us up to speed with the changing environment in our industry. This is key because as a team, it’s crucial that a team is all on the same page and to work effectively. Part of that effectiveness also hinges on people’s ability to both change and learn.

Learning Prepares Us for the Unexpected

The future is unpredictable but continuous learning can help us with unexpected changes. By staying ahead of our learning, we are better equipped for drastic changes.

For example, we can learn about the general workforce and how the application process works to better prepare us for job searching. This can help if for some reason you lose your job and need to find other work.

Learning Boosts Your Profile

If you’re always learning, you are always improving. Best of all, you can put those skills into your own portfolio or resume. You can showcase these skills in various ways and in certain situations, you can get people to endorse those skills.

Learning Builds Confidence

A lot of us place our confidence in our own skills and abilities. When we turn something down, it can be for various reasons. However, those reasons can just be that we lack the chops necessary to fulfil what’s being asked.

You don’t run into that issue if you are developing continuous learning. You feel accomplished when learning new things and it improves how you view your skills.

Learning Will Change Perspectives

The final reason continuous learning is so important is the fact that it opens your mind. Having an open mind and willingness to take on new perspectives can do wonders for you.

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First of all, it builds your attitude to change. Being excited about change can affect others around you in a positive way compared to dragging your feet and resisting.

Secondly, when you take continuous learning into account, you can begin to understand how other people feel about a particular issue.

Knowing one side of an argument is okay. Knowing both sides is a lot better though. It allows you to not only understand a situation better but you can also help in a more effective manner.

How Do You Develop Continuous Learning?

Continuous learning may be simple on paper but there is more to it than consuming information. When looking at top industry leaders, they’re behaving in a specific manner.

Anderspink.com outlined some specific traits that individuals used that made them continuous learners.[2] They portrayed the following:

  • Always learning something new and sought out more
  • Had knowledge on various topics that weren’t always related to current roles
  • Were always looking for new experiences and doing different things
  • Knew about the latest trends and technologies in the industry
  • Maintain strong networks with well-connected people
  • Were active and visible on social media with respect to tracking and sharing recent developments

All of this easy to say, but it’s tougher to pull off all that right from the start. Here are my steps to help you get into continuous learning, but also to develop it.

Step 1 – Set a Clear And Specific Goal

Basic motivation dictates that if you want to achieve something you need to want it. No other gimmick or trick will work. As such, the best way to show you want something is to set a clear and specific goal.

A goal at its core is a habit and there are all kinds of methods to help you develop that habit. You can take a slow route and consider the Kaizen method.

Or if you want something more technical, look to BJ Fogg and his work on forming new habits. In his book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything , he explains three conditions that need to be met:

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  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

This first step is the most crucial because if you lack motivation, there is little that will keep you moving forward. No one will willingly learn for the sake of learning as Roger Schank explains.[3]

So how can you find the motivation to meet these three conditions?

Sometimes, you need to find a passion that can boost you to do this. Examples of these passions come in many forms, some negative, but still effective:

  • Frustration – expressing unhappiness about the current state of affairs and want to change it.
  • Self-improvement – already have a desire to improve yourself in some fashion.
  • Status – a desire to feel valued and contributing to a change.
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – you don’t want to be left behind and miss something important.

On top of that, these examples can also shape your goals. For example, if you’re frustrated with the current state of affairs with your group or team, you can learn how to solve issues in an easier manner or communicate effectively to get points and ideas across.

Step 2 – Create a Learning System (Or Program)

Once your goal is defined, the next thing is to build a system to help support your strategy. You want to be looking for diverse sources of information, but also to be picky about it.

Diversity is key for a variety of reasons. Not only does different opinions open your mind, but it also allows you to discover other angles to problems.

Steve Jobs designed the Pixar building with this philosophy in mind.[4] And we can apply that philosophy in our own learning. For example, reading a blog post on human psychology can make you a better communicator, sales rep, or marketer. How can that happen? That’s where the diverse bit steps in.

Allow your mind to wander and challenge yourself to connect the dots between those pieces of information. It could change your perspective or your overall approach to a problem.

But as I said above, you want to be picky about the diversity too. Your continuous learning system should be diverse, but also selective. There is a lot of information out there and while learning feels good, you don’t want to cram in the wrong information.

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Make sure that you devote most of your time to learning within your specific field. Furthermore, ensure the information is coming from a trustworthy source.

Step 3 – Empower Yourself with Various Tools

Either individually or as a group, you want to be using other tools to help enhance the learning system. There are all kinds of tools to help you present information and learning.

Seminars, workshops, and live classes are still popular training tools. That much is clear with platforms like Udemy and Skillshare that offer thousands of courses on various topics for cheap prices.

These are the tools that modern learners need as this grants learning from anywhere and at any time. Furthermore, those platforms give you have access to those courses so long as you have an account there.

Step 4 – Automate the Learning Process

The final step is to automate the process. The market for Learning Management Systems (LMS) is vast, and there is a wide variety of tools to help with that.

What these tools do is make the learning process easier. It saves you time scouring the Internet for blog articles and courses on the information. Instead, these systems present them normally in a feed-like style for easy consumption.

All that’s left is to tell the system what you want to learn and which one to pick. Anderspink is one company that offers a learning system. Other options are iSpring, Learn Upon, Mindflash and more. Each one has its own unique features, so take the free trial and see which one you like the most.

Final Thoughts

Continuous learning provides a lot of distinct advantages to your career and life. Not only does it keep us sharper, but learning can enhance other areas in our lives. And once we tailor our learning experience, we can enhance specific skills and speed up the learning process with various tools and platforms.

More About Continuous Learning

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on March 1, 2021

How To Find a Mentor And Make The Relationship Work

How To Find a Mentor And Make The Relationship Work

One of the fastest shortcuts to success in anything is to learn from someone who’s already done it. No matter what your goals are—from starting a business to inventing a new technology, from becoming a better public speaker to getting a promotion—there’s someone out there who’s done some variation of it. They’ve already faced the trials and tribulations of that journey. They have the connections. They’ve gained experience and wisdom. They know the pitfalls and challenges, and they know the shortcuts. If you want a higher chance of success, find a mentor.

Pick up a biography of any successful person, and you’ll quickly learn that there’s one thing they all have in common: they’ve all had mentors—people who came before who taught and championed and supported them, people who helped shortcut their path to success in their given field.

Mentorship Isn’t Exactly New

The recorded history of mentorship dates back to at least Ancient Greece.[1] In the Middle Ages, most skills and crafts were learned through apprenticeship.[2] And since the 1970s, mentorship has become a critical part of many businesses and enterprises.[3]

But it’s not just an enduring legacy—research backs its benefits up. People with mentors are more likely to get promotions, be more engaged, and even feel more satisfied at work.[4][5] In fact, a study at Sun Microsystems found that 25% of employees who took part in mentorship got a pay raise and were five times more likely to get a promotion.[6]

So, how do you take advantage of all of these benefits and find yourself a mentor? The good news is there are more opportunities today than ever before—from free to paid, from formal to informal.

How to Find a Mentor

Here are five ways to find a mentor and make the relationship work.

1. Start With Your Human Resources Department

If you work in a corporate setting, start with the HR department. They’ll be able to connect you with any company-sponsored mentorship programs or, at least, point you in the right direction.

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Even if you haven’t heard of a company mentorship program, it’s worth checking in because you might be surprised—71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs, but only 37% of professionals actively have a mentor.[7]

If your company doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, HR may be able to recommend aligned organizations or affinity groups, or even help you set up an informal meeting with a potential mentor in the organization.

2. Join a Club, Organization, or Affinity Group

You don’t need to work in a corporate setting to join a like-minded group or club. If there’s an area you’re passionate about or if you’re looking for a mentor with similar background and interests, there are several non-profits, organizations, and groups that can help you meet a potential mentor.

Join a club or group in your area of interest and start networking. There are groups related to everything from skills like public speaking to fields like entrepreneurship or art, to celebrating and supporting your culture, background, sexual orientation, or identity.

If you start with your passions and values, you’re more likely to find a mentor who’s aligned.

3. Sign Up for a Networking App or Service

In the 21st century, networking can be as simple as a swipe on the phone or a click on the computer. There are plenty of networking and mentorship groups already in place, from SCORE, which helps small businesses connect with mentors for free, to Meetup.com, which helps people with similar interests to meet up, to even Shapr, which is known as the “Tinder for business” and helps you connect with other professionals in your area.

The ultimate social networking tool for business, of course, LinkedIn, can be a powerful asset in helping you to find a mentor or be introduced to one through a mutual contact if there’s a specific person in your field that you’d like to meet.

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Most of these services are free or low-cost, so do some research and join the service that makes the most sense to help you meet a mentor.

4. Pay for a Mentorship Program or Mastermind Group

In addition to the numerous free resources, you can also pay to be connected to a mentor or a mentorship community. Some high-level leaders actually sell formal mentorship programs. There are also paid groups, organizations, and masterminds that span every industry and area of interest.

If you’re interested in a paid program, do some online research on potential mentors, and ask people in your field if there are any mentors or programs that they’ve hired themselves or heard about. Though a paid relationship does change the dynamics of a classic mentorship, it can be extremely beneficial if you’re looking for specific structure and results or access to a very prominent person or group of people.

5. Reach Out Directly to People Who Inspire You

You can try to reach out directly to people who inspire you or potential mentors. Do your research and find people who inspire you or who have achieved success in your area of interest, and then contact them directly to ask for mentorship.

Of course, if you have the opportunity to be introduced to them through mutual contact (check LinkedIn first to see if you have any in common), you may have a greater chance of a positive response. But many prominent mentorships started with just an audacious e-mail asking for mentorship. So, don’t shy away from reaching out directly if there’s someone you really want to connect with.

Get the Most Out of the Mentorship

A mentor-mentee relationship is different than almost any other relationship you’ll ever have. It’s not exactly a friendship, but it’s not exactly a boss-employee dynamic, either (unless your mentor is your boss). So, it’s important to set up the right structure to make sure you both get the most out of the mentorship.

Here are five ways to get the most out of mentorship.

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1. Get Clear on Your Goals

Before establishing a mentorship, get clear on why you want a mentor. What are you hoping to get out of the relationship? What skills do you want to learn? Where do you hope this relationship will help you get in the next six months or a year? How much time do you want to dedicate to this mentorship? How will you know if the mentorship is a success?

Once you’re clear on your goals, you’ll be able to better assess who is the right fit for you, where to find this person, and how to communicate so you’re both on the same page.

2. Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries

Any good mentorship starts with clear communication and upfront expectations and boundaries. Right away, clearly decide how and how often you’ll meet, what your goals and expectations of each other are, and what boundaries you have around the relationship.

For example, some mentorships meet monthly but text in between meetings. Others only meet quarterly and check-in via e-mail a few times in between. Others still have no correspondence in between meetings. A little work upfront to be clear on things like where you’ll meet, how often, what communication is acceptable, and what issues are within the bounds of the mentorship can go a long way to making sure it’s a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship.

3. Keep It Consistent

Once you’ve ironed out the details, keep them consistent. Try to schedule out meetings at least 3 to 6 months in advance so that there are no misunderstandings. For example, you may choose to meet on the first Friday of every month, unless otherwise discussed.

Try not to cancel meetings unless something truly unavoidable comes up and, if e-mail is customary, be sure to consistently check in via e-mail in between. The biggest threat to mentorship is the lack of consistency. Over time, saying, “I’ll e-mail you when I’m free next month,” withers away into two or three months without any communication, and then a failed mentorship.

We all get busy, and things are bound to come up, so if the mentorship isn’t on your calendar and prioritized, it may fall apart after a certain point. Make a point to keep it consistent!

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4. Be Open to New Ways of Thinking and Trying New Things

The mentorship will challenge you and may ask you to try new things. You don’t necessarily have to agree with and resonate with everything your mentor says, but try your best to keep an open mind and try new things on for size—you might be surprised.

Your mentor likely has a lot of experience in your interest area, and they may have new ways of thinking about things from all of that experience. It doesn’t mean you have to accept their advice long-term, but being open to trying their advice shows your mentor you appreciate their wisdom and also opens you up to new possibilities.

If something isn’t a fit after you’ve tried it, talk to your mentor about that, and you can work together to find the right fit. But show up, do your homework, listen, and be open to new ideas and approaches. That’s the whole point of the mentorship, and it shows your mentor that you take the relationship seriously!

5. Be Grateful and Give as well

Jumping off that last point, be grateful. Especially if it is an unpaid relationship, your mentor is donating time to support you. Express gratitude and appreciation whenever you can, and take the advice and homework as seriously as possible. And don’t feel like it’s only a one-sided relationship. Your mentor gets so much out of the relationship, from appreciation to celebrating your successes to even the future networking and connections you can share with your mentor.

So, don’t forget to celebrate your wins and recognize that this is a mutually beneficial relationship. The better you feel about the relationship, the better it’s going to go.

The Bottom Line

Mentorship is an amazing and invaluable asset that can accelerate your growth, success, and even fulfillment. Finding the right mentor and getting the most out of the relationship can mean the difference between wasted time and connection, wisdom, and a shortcut to your goals.

So dive on in and reap the same benefits that successful leaders have been accessing for the past 3,000 years. Find yourself a mentor.

More Tips on How to Find a Mentor

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Reference

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