American social philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” I’d like to take it one step further suggesting we don’t just need to keep learning, we need to also use what we learn to continue to grow and develop. To not live off our past accomplishments—no matter how successful those achievements have been—but to set new goals and achieve new accomplishments.
The reality is that most of us in our too busy, too full lives, don’t take the time to consciously think about our own growth and development. However, if you’d like to not only be a learner, but also grow and develop, you can do so in small, manageable steps. Here are my suggestions for your development journey.
Find ONE positive, meaningful “stretch” development area. Identify a single positive trait or habit you’d like to develop that would get you some bang for your buck. Notice I said single—that’s because you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. And, I said a positive trait. That’s because positive change versus problem solving is much more motivating. The good news is that any problem can be turned into a positive. For instance, instead of saying you want to stop telling people what they should do, say I want to better facilitate others finding their own answers. Instead of saying I want to lose 10 pounds declare you want to eat healthier or exercise more.
Define Desired Change. Take time to define what you will do to make this change happen—and be specific. I heard someone once say – you can’t hit a target if you don’t know what the target is. Vividly define for yourself what you will be doing differently? Using the examples above, maybe you’d see yourself listening to people more and asking more questions versus immediately jumping in with a solution. Or, to support your healthier life style, say you’ll start drinking water with lunch instead of a soda, and you’ll walk for 30 minutes three times a week.
Keep Your Desired Outcome Top of Mind. I am a firm believer that charge starts by simply becoming aware of the desire to change. Finding ways to keep your desired change top-of-mind allows you to notice times when you’ve successfully changed your behavior and times when you’ve fallen back to your old ways. Make a list of your outcomes. Use pen and paper, your phone, tablet, or computer—just record what you want to do and put it somewhere that will be easy for you to read every day as a reminder of your desired goals.
Give Yourself Permission To Be A Learner. Just because you declare you want to grow and develop doesn’t mean it will happen. You have to practice and be willing to step out of your comfort zone to try something new. Think of it as creating a learning lab for your development. Usually you don’t have to go far to find real world opportunities for practice. Just remember when you practice that the old two steps forward, one step back dynamic might come into play. Most importantly, celebrate any and all progress and don’t beat yourself up when you falter. Dust yourself off and try again. If you persist you will prevail.
The human brain is an amazing machine. Declaring a desired growth area and defining what that looks like sets your brain to work toward your goal. When you also keep it top of mind and commit to practice you become unstoppable. Give it a try. If you do, you will be one who “inherits the earth.”
About the Author
Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.