How to learn the 'right' way

If you are reading this, I am assuming that you are a learner and you probably know that learning is a lifelong process. But, let’s admit that as much as we claim to be lifelong learners, we are only open to it as long as it falls within our comfort zones;  not to mention, as long as there is an easy availability of resources like time, effort, or money. Isn't it?

As much as learning is fun, it is also serious business.

Let me tell you this. Only when we pursue learning with seriousness, do we realize the importance of creating a learning path that leads us to success. Before we go any further in defining what that learning path should be, let us check if we have the traits of a learner. 

There are three important traits that one must possess to be able to create a learning path for oneself.

1. Open-mindedness

Being open-minded is not as easy as it may sound. It entails a lot of discomforts because it includes comments and opinions that may not resonate with yours. It needs you to have an attitude that welcomes challenges and different perspectives. Open-mindedness is about appreciating the fact that your perspective is just one of the many that are possible on any given subject. 

2. Acceptance to change

When we acquire knowledge, it comes in with an element of ego that sometimes makes it difficult for us to keep going on our path of learning. Acceptance to change is what helps us shed off the ego and understand that a part of our learning may be obsolete. This takes acceptance of the fact that it’s time for us to change our ways and also embrace the current formats of learning.

Change is one thing. Acceptance is another. 

3. Curiosity

You must have the curiosity of a child, where you are keen to know more, experiment more, and explore more. Being keen to understand things in a different light and put yourself out there to learn what you don’t know is the key here.

I’m sure you have these three very important traits of a learner and now, with that, let’s pave our learning path with the ‘what’ of learning. It is important to be clear about this; otherwise, we end up learning anything that falls in our lap and comes in our way. It is also important to understand that staying busy is not the same as making progress. Learning is best done when we have clarity on what we need to learn. So, let’s break learning into two important categories.

  1. Self-learning: The learning initiatives we need to take to improve ourselves as people, like soft skills or behavioural changes that impact our self-worth.
  2. Subject matter learning: A more focused learning, where you need to zero down on the aspects of work that you still haven’t mastered.

Once we bring clarity on both is when we can conclude what we need to learn.

We usually learn within our comfort zones with opportunities that just comes our way, like a book recommended by your friend, a free webinar, or simply browsing the net. Remember that keeping busy is not the same as making progress. So, how do we really learn? Well, it calls for investing your time, effort and money:

  1. Time

We need to dedicate a fixed time for learning at a daily level, say 30 minutes a day, at a weekly level, say 2 hours every weekend, or even once a fortnight. However, simply allotting time is not enough. You need to define the exact hour or time for your learning. Will it be the first half-hour of the day or post-work hours? Will it be on a Saturday if it is once a week? Define and adhere to that schedule.

2. Money

The money you want to spend on learning will be a function of how much you want to earn out of that learning. It is extremely critical to create a learning budget for yourself. Align your learning objectives with the investment that you will have to make. Research on the kind of courses, books, workshops, blogs, etc. that will be useful for you. As you create a budget for your monthly or yearly expenses, also churn out a learning budget for yourself.

3. Effort
Without effort, there is no result. You need to be ready to step outside of your comfort zone and prioritize learning every single day and not just when you feel inspired. If there are two things you need to do for your work, there is one thing you need to do on your work.

No matter what your learning goal is, without planning, time, investment, and effort, it is futile and meaningless. So, commit to carving out a learning path that will take you to a level that you deserve. 

Originally published May 15, 2021