How many times have you thought or said things like “I’m too old to learn this,” “I’ll never be good enough,” “I don’t really need to know,” “I’m not good at this type of thing,” or “learning will take too long, and I don’t have the time right now”?
Learning something new, whether it’s a new skill, system, language, or approach, requires us to leave our comfort zones, which is, unfortunately, is not everyone’s favourite location. Fortunately, we can all overcome this and become lifelong learners, allowing us to develop to our full potential and achieve more success.
Furthermore, we’ve all been forced to become “students” again during the last two years, learning a new way, adapting to a new world, filling our time with new interests and activities, and so on…
So, knowing that we are able to learn, why should we limit the benefits of new learning only to situations that are forced upon us? Why not adopt a lifelong learner mindset, where we are always seeking new knowledge, experiences and skills?
Why don’t we enjoy learning?
There are a variety of reasons why we are hesitant to learn something new, but the following are the most common:
Fear. As we become older, we get used to being one of the smartest people in the room, so many people are afraid of being a beginner again, asking too many questions or appearing silly. Others may be concerned that they will not be able to learn or that it will take too long, causing them to waste their time.
Lack of motivation or laziness. While many of us will not admit to being lazy, the reality is that when presented with a new learning opportunity, our thoughts instinctively wonder how long it will take, how worthwhile it will be, or how useful it will be in our personal and professional life.
The benefits of being a long-life learner
While there may be reasons why learning anything new can bring negative thoughts, emotions, or feelings, at Optimist Performance, we don’t like to dwell on the negative. There are numerous beneficial results as well.
It can cause long-term alterations in the brain areas related to attention and concentration. People who learned a new skill over a three-month period exhibited an increase in their long-term memory, according to a study by Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for Vital Longevity.
It will boost your confidence. When we realise how capable we are of learning something new, we gain confidence in ourselves, especially in situations where we may lack prior expertise because we know we can always learn. As a result, we will be more motivated to learn new things and open ourselves to new experiences.
You can find new growth opportunities, both in your personal and professional life. When we adopt a lifelong learner mindset, many of our beliefs and behaviours will also change. For example, suppose there is a new skill that will allow you to opt for a new opportunity, whether it is a promotion, a new job, or even an increase in salary in your current position. By being willing to learn whatever it’s required, we are allowing ourselves more opportunities in life.
Change your mindset to become a lifelong learner
Changing our mindset isn’t a one-day task, but given the benefits, it may bring to our lives, it’s well worth the effort. We’ve compiled a list of suggestions to help us shift our mindset and become the best version of ourselves:
1. Switch your thoughts
We’re starting to realise how significant our thoughts are, and even better, we realise that we can change them. So, if you want to change your thinking, start paying attention to the negative thoughts that arise when you’re confronted with a new learning challenge and replace them with positive ones.
Hayley Bennett, a multi-award-winning equity, diversity, and inclusion consultant and campaigner, is a perfect example. She kept thinking about all the things that could go wrong when she wanted to start her own business until one day; she decided to focus on all the things that could go right. And it was because of this mindset change that she was able to start her own business and is now thriving. (You can listen to the interview here)
2. Take into account the opportunity cost
Whatever decision you make, you are missing something else. So, the next time a new learning opportunity presents itself, and you start making excuses, consider what you might miss out on if you don’t master that new talent.
Consider all of the executives and managers who have refused to adjust to the new working style. Their decision will have ramifications not only for themselves but also for their company; for example, they may miss out on or even lose excellent talent as a result of their decision.
3. Replace your lack of interest with curiosity
Not everyone is interested in the same topics, and a lack of interest will certainly make learning more challenging, if not impossible. If you don’t have a choice (for example, learning a new CRM system at work), try to spark your interest by identifying other advantages associated with the learning.
To use the CRM system as an example, you may not be interested in it now, but consider how much time you’ll have once you’ve learned it to do other things you prefer. (Read more about the benefits of being curious and how to cultivate curiosity here)
4. Embrace the unknown
As humans, we are not particularly fond of the unknown. According to studies, we prefer a negative outcome rather than an unknown one. The reason for this is that uncertainty threats our safety, but we can always change our vision of the unknown. (Check this article for more tips)
5. Accept your vulnerability
As mentioned above, one of the main reasons for not learning new things is that we don’t want to look like beginners or look like a fool. All of these are linked to our fear of being vulnerable. However, showing vulnerability has more benefits than we may think.
For example, if you’re a leader, showing vulnerability within your team can increase creativity, innovation, and collaboration. No one is perfect, and seeing our leader as a person who doesn’t know everything, give us the courage to admit mistakes ourselves, to speak up about new ideas, or to ask questions that can enhance our results. So, the next time your mind tells you about the negative aspect of vulnerability, you can switch these thoughts and replace them with all the positive outcomes you may gain from it. (Learn more about vulnerability here)
The Optimist view…
We believe that everyone has the ability to achieve whatever they want, but unfortunately, not everyone has the mindset needed to do it. To change your life, learn new things, live new experiences, and succeed; you must be able to imagine yourself capable of doing so, which in turn will motivate you to take action.
At Optimist Performance, we don’t want you to miss out due to fear or a lack of motivation. So the next time you’re debating whether or not you should learn that new skill and your mind starts making all the usual excuses, remember that we can all learn, no matter how old we are, that you don’t have to be the best to be successful, and most importantly, remember that time will pass anyway. Still, you can choose how to invest the time you have.