How do you Learn? Really, how?

Preface: This posting is a follow-up to this one: Do you ask good questions? If you haven’t read it yet, please consider going there first; for the preview will frame this article much better for you.

Alaka‘i managers and leaders are lifelong learners. They have to be. Learning is how” how what? My feeling, and what I have continuously observed over time, especially as someone with a calling for better management, is that learning is how we grow.

Lifelong learning is one of those qualities that can get a lot of lip service. We all understand that we can learn bad habits just as effectively as we can learn good ones, yet learning doesn’t really have any wrong connotations to it. Generally speaking, we all agree that learning is a great thing, and hence we assume that learning is good, and good for us. Our more youthful schooling aside, no one argues any differently; no one rebels.

Still a bunch of lip service. Peer into most classrooms and into the faces of most students (whether in academia or in a workplace training session), and unfortunately you will see that we don’t truly value learning until we realize that
a) We need it, and we need it now, and
b) We aren’t exactly sure how to go about doing it in the way that is most effective for us.

Just because we all do it, it doesn’t mean we do it well. In fact, most of us don’t. (If we did, the argument could be made that we wouldn’t be in this economic mess right now).

Does your learning SERVE you?

Learning truly begins to serve us well only after we personally connect to it in ways we value as exceptionally useful to us. Alas, that doesn’t happen for most of us while we are in school ”“ the very place it was supposed to happen.

It’s when we get to be adults that we begin to realize what things we have to learn for our own well-being, and nine times out of ten, we’re then on our own with figuring them out, and not just the subject matter at hand: We’re on our own with figuring out how we learn best.

This is why I believe that when a business owner incorporates ‘Ike loa [the Hawaiian value of lifelong learning] into his company’s organizational culture, he gives everyone associated with his company an extraordinary gift: He gives them Ho‘ohana context for the learning they now have to do. If that Ho‘ohana is also their calling, it is also learning they want to do. It is learning they thrill to; it is learning that grows them.

Focus on this question of HOW you learn

Do yourself a favor. Whether you have an Alaka‘i manager and leader for a boss or not, figure out for yourself exactly how you learn.

The easiest way to do this is to back-track cause and effect: Trace your learning steps back to the causes which produced your most effective learning result. What did you last learn, which you can honestly say was best-result learning of consequence, because it still serves you well?

You will often hear teachers and coaches quote the NLP buckets [neuro-linguistic programming] asking you if you are largely visual, auditory, tactile or kinesthetic. However we use all those approaches when we learn; it’s biological:

— Our ears and voice enable us to be auditory and verbal

— Our eyes enable us to be visual

— Our sense of touch enables us be tactile
–Our emotions enable us to be kinesthetic
— And our brains and our spirit help us add an instinctual, gut-level wisdom and intelligence to all four

Thus I find NLP is great when we extend the conversation into how we will communicate our learning (and conversely, our teaching), but for the how of your learning, go deeper into the cause by picking out the details of exactly what it is you do. You want to know how you learn best so you can duplicate those causes, and repeat effective learning as opposed to ineffective learning.

For instance, it wasn’t until after I had graduated from high school and went to college that I figured out I love to study in a certain way. I thrive in quiet, and I had to create study spaces in those pockets of time my roommates weren’t around in my very cramped first apartment, and I figured out how to pick the right spaces when I was out and about elsewhere too. I am a reader, I am a writer, and I study by connecting those two things in visual + tactile patterns. Then, if it is learning I want to last a long time (learning I have decided is a ‘keeper’ for me), I have to attach it to my language of intention, creating a vocabulary for it. (You saw me do so in this posting with the phrase ‘intellectual honesty’). Then I will physically connect my new speech pattern to some kind of work activity; not only does the learning stick because of my speech, it starts to serve me.

When I can articulate my learning process for a boss, I am telling him or her how to work with me when I am growing. They will know when I am truly learning something, or if I merely have a passing interest in it, soon to let it go until it disappears forever.

How we learn is one of our strengths

A big clue is what you are doing when you find you enjoy learning. As author Marcus Buckingham coaches us toward understanding in Go Put your Strengths to Work, our appetites have an innate sort of wisdom which will drive our strongest abilities —“at least those that last [as our true strengths.]” Just as happens with our other strengths, ‘strong learning’ will

  1. help us feel effective,
  2. we will actively look forward to it,
  3. we will feel inquisitive and focused while we do it,
  4. and afterwards, we will feel fulfilled and authentic.

And who doesn’t want those things from their learning?

Let’s talk story.
Have you been able to identify learning activities which feel strong to you? The way you articulate them as you share your own example is sure to help others identify theirs!

Comment here, or via the tweet-conversation we have on Twitter @sayalakai.

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” ~
How do you Learn? Really, how?

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