self-learning

Owning Your Development: Why Self-Learning is an Essential Practice for Everyone

Sarah Katherine Tucker
Sarah Katherine Tucker

When I joined the corporate world 13 years ago, I was eager to grow my career, gain new skills, and assume greater levels of responsibility. My first job was with a consulting company, and although small, the Learning & Development processes and programs in place were thoughtful and impactful. As I found my footing in my role and built relationships across the company, a few leaders noticed my desire to learn and my potential to contribute to additional areas of the business. Over time, I was offered opportunities to travel for trainings and workshops, the chance to explore consulting through an intensive bootcamp, and eventually assist with facilitating training sessions. The company’s investment in developing me drove tremendous loyalty and I grew my career at the firm for five years until I had my son. 

Upon re-entering the workforce, I joined a budding startup helping develop and implement talent management processes as the company was preparing to scale. As I dove into the work, my learning and experience flooded back to me and helped me set a solid foundation for the company’s growth. The whirlwind of hiring, process implementation, and building for scale monopolized my headspace for over a year and as I navigated building a high-performing team, I found myself with knowledge gaps, untapped curiosity, and a lack of focus on my own development. Gone were the leaders on the lookout for my potential and opportunities for growth – my new role called for me to own my development in order to continue building my career. 

What is self-learning? 

Today, a good portion of my work focuses on mindset and self-learning. The search for knowledge are key traits of a growth mindset. For all individuals, the ability to be curious, creative, and find inspiration extends beyond the workplace. Self-learning is a focused practice of identifying areas of opportunity or learning. This can be of your own volition or at the urging of a peer or manager and includes formulating learning goals, identifying resources to achieve these goals, and assessing the outcome. While the seeds of self-learning may be planted by a leader or colleague, the nurturing and tending of the practice itself is wholly owned by you. 

Why is self-learning a critical practice for everyone? 

The world of work is constantly evolving, and regardless of our profession this requires us to develop a strong learning habit. Many organizations across industries still leverage formal training delivery models for core skill development, but oftentimes these trainings simply scratch the surface. When it comes to digging deeper, applying the learned skills or honing a new behavior, self-learning is a practice that will be key to ensuring your skills continue to change as the world does. 

What habits go into self-learning?  

Curiosity – Harvard Business Review  also found that people who were curious in their roles at work, were 34% more creative, less reactive to stress and provocation, more empathetic with others, and better at communicating. When it comes to self-learning, exhibiting curiosity and understanding where you need to build skills is helpful in identifying and pursuing your unique purpose. What are your strengths? More importantly, what are your areas of opportunity? How do you want to cultivate yourself personally and professionally? Cultivating curiosity builds a learning habit and opens up new neural pathways in your brain. 

Goal-Setting – It’s important to identify your goals for learning and development so you have some clear mile markers to keep you focused and motivated. The key to goal setting is your mindset – are you seeking short-term wins or long-term gains? Are you running a marathon or sprint? In reality, your long game is a series of short-term accomplishments. Setting micro-goals for yourself, including how you will apply your learning, helps direct your efforts and see meaningful progress. 

Identify Influencers and Inspiration – The work required to continuously evolve your skills becomes increasingly important as your progress in your career. Surrounding yourself with sources of inspiration and other thought leaders can be hugely helpful as you continue to learn and grow your skills. Seeking inspiration both from within (your *spark*) and outside (other people’s *spark*) of yourself layers in diverse perspectives and inputs ensuring your own development isn’t stagnant.  

How can leaders and managers instill these habits in themselves?  

Research has shown that it takes, on average, 66 days to build a habit. The ability and speed at which a habit takes hold in the mind and body is dependent upon the person and their level of commitment to behavioral change. Forming (and breaking) habits is also heavily influenced by our brain chemistry and our ability to build new neural pathways. 

Think of the annual practice most of us entertain when we set New Year’s resolutions. “I’m going to…do/be/become/learn/etc.” In that moment we tell our mind what our intention is, but it takes time to connect our thoughts to our actions and so our body doesn’t immediately translate what the mind has understood. Habits that involve behavioral change take time because you’re creating new neural pathways in your brain to support transforming thought into action. 

In addition to the science of brain chemistry, there’s a bit of an art to building a habit of self-learning in that you must craft the conditions for learning to be successful. Carving out dedicated time for learning can be difficult in a time when work and life seemingly blur all lines. However, when you are passionate about what you are learning, you’re more likely to devote time to increasing your knowledge.  

Creating dedicated space for your learning to occur can help settle your mind into the headspace needed to absorb information and expand your awareness. Consider what type of environment is most conducive for your learning – do you want to be outside in nature? Do you desire absolute quiet in order to focus? Is music helpful for concentration? Would a fidget settle your hands and mind? Dropping into learning, and embracing curiosity, is easiest when you are in a physical and mental place of receptivity. 

How does Peoplelogic Elevate support self-learning? 

Whether you’re a seasoned leader, an aspiring one, or somewhere in between — one thing is for sure – the skills you need to be successful tomorrow look completely different than today. In a world where the only constant is change, you need a new approach to developing leadership skills and capabilities. Peoplelogic Elevate is a new Learning Management System designed for managers and leaders who don’t have time to sit in front of a lengthy training to only grab a few great nuggets of information. Just as the needs of leaders and managers has evolved, we’re rethinking the way learning happens and continuously developing new offerings for individuals and organizations. 

Peoplelogic Elevate supports self-learning by offering an easily accessible platform and experience for companies, teams, and individuals. Our goal isn’t to confine learning opportunities to a select group or stifle curiosity, but to bring learning to anyone who desires to build relevant skills and capabilities. Self-learning is most valuable when it’s engaging, thought provoking, and provides an opportunity to translate knowledge into action. We created Peoplelogic Elevate for all of the growth-minded individuals who embrace developing themselves and carving their own unique path to leadership – however that journey unfolds. 

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