When Will You Learn?

By Chris Chittenden

Learning is undoubtedly one of the most effective strategies we can have when faced with change, so it follows that the more effective we are at learning and adapting then the better equipped we are at dealing with change. Throughout our articles, we have often pointed out that change in the world is occurring at an ever increasing pace. We have seen nothing that would have us change our view. Our ability to learn has never been as important as it is today if we want to succeed. It is not surprising that when we ask people if learning is important to them, they will answer with a resounding "yes". Yet often what we hear from them and observe about them are not consistent. People speak about the importance of learning but often do not follow this up with a great deal of action. There are many reasons for this so, in order to help you become more effective as a learner, we would like to offer you four questions to ponder about the place of learning in your life.

Am I willing to learn? This might seem like a redundant question as most people would say they are willing learners. However, if we reflect on ourself as a learner, we will almost certainly find there are areas where learning is something we pursue and other areas where we do not, even if there could be some benefit in learning. Hence it is always useful to ask ourselves, if we are willing to learn in a particular domain. If the answer is "yes", we might also explore the extent of that willingness. If the answer is "no", it may be worthwhile to consider the pros and cons of that answer. What will we miss out on if we do not engage in this learning?

Is this learning relevant? The extent of our willingness to learn often derives from our assessment of the relevance of specific areas of learning to our life. We all make judgements about what is important to us and what is not and our willingness to learn is usually consistent with that. It is often valuable to bring this question to the front of our mind in order to ensure that we are not assessing a learning opportunity as irrelevant simply because we have not looked hard enough to find the relevance. It is valuable to remember that what may appear to be irrelevant today may be very relevant at some time in the future. History is littered with people whose downfall was brought on by an assessment that something was not worth looking into or learning about.

Can I learn this? This question does not just relate to our ability to learn but also speaks to our sense of ourselves - our dignity. Our assessment of our capability to engage in effective action provides an enormous boost or presents a very large barrier to our learning. If we have a story about ourselves that we cannot learn about computers for example, then most likely we will not learn too much about computers. In other words, the story we have about ourselves as a learner in a particular domain or in life in general will create a context for our ability to learn. It will also continue our story about ourselves as a learner, as we will most likely struggle to learn and therefore further set in stone our story about ourselves as a learner.

How can I learn this? Given we want to learn, see the learning as relevant and that we can learn, the final question relates to method of learning that would best suit us. Who will teach us? There is much to consider here. Who has the knowledge? Who do I trust to take care of me as a learner? Who am I willing to make myself vulnerable to? Who will I give authority to treat me as a learner? These are not trivial questions as our ability to learn in any given situation will be enhanced or compromised by our source of learning and our relationship with them.

The basic premise of coaching is learning. A good coach should address these questions at some stage during a coaching relationship. If the coaching relationship does not provide positive assessments of these questions to the person being coached, then their learning will be compromised.

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© 2002 Chris Chittenden