How to Boost your Lifelong Learning Ability?

Four Stages of Competence
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Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

How to Boost your Lifelong Learning Ability?

Our world is changing at an ever-increasing pace, and we must learn faster to keep up. But learning is painful for most of us because of our resistance against change and unfamiliarity. How can we boost our learning ability and turn learning into a more enjoyable process?

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. It is important for an individual's competitiveness and employability, but also enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development.
Andersen (2019) has identified four attributes that belong to "lifelong learners", a discomforting notion for most of us. The four attributes are: aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability. Interestingly, she also suggests mental tools for each of them to help to boost these attributes and make people better learners.

Good learners are inspired to understand and master new skills. However, when confronted with something new, we tend to focus on the negative, such as "it will take more time to finish the first few jobs if I use the new system…", which unconsciously reinforces our lack of aspiration. Therefore, we need to shift the focus if we want to learn something. Research shows that shifting our focus from challenges to benefits helps to increase the aspiration. For example, we can picture ourselves benefiting from a gained skill, such as: If I use the new system to do my jobs, I can build up a CRM system based on the data.

Great learners understand what qualities, knowledge and skills they have and what they do not. But most of us usually overrate ourselves in self-assessment and are blind about what we still need to learn. An accurate self-assessment should start from realising our biased or flawed perspective and seeking for greater objectivity, which makes us more open to hearing and acting on different opinions from others.

Curiosity keeps people trying and understanding new things. Instead of focusing on and reinforcing the initial disinterest in a new subject, people good at learning ask themselves questions such as Can I do it differently and how?, and act on the answer to such questions. This practice helps them find out at least one thing about the "boring" subject that can spark their curiosity. Besides, keeping curiosity and doing things in another way often contribute to innovation.

Being bad at something makes most of us uncomfortable. Great learners allow themselves to be a vulnerable beginner, which makes them less uncomfortable at learning. We need a balanced mindset at the beginning stage, such as I might be dumb or bad at doing this now as I have never done it. But I will get better and master the skill over time. When people are encouraged to accept failures and learn from them in the early stage of learning, they become more interested in the subject and achieve better outcomes.

The ability to keep learning new knowledge and skills is essential in this rapidly changing world. With Andersen's interesting tips you can boost your learning ability by having more aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability.

Source: Andersen, Erika. (2019). "Learning to Learn". Harvard Business Review on How to Learn Faster and Better, Winter 2019, 14–17.


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