Agile Learning — Fuel Your Growth and Self-Leadership
What does learning mean to you? Over time, I’ve seen that learning means different things to different people. There are those who memorize just enough to get by and then they promptly forget what they’ve “learned”… Other people dive into a subject and get so bogged down in the details they can’t figure out how to use the information. However, those of us who are committed to self-leadership, have learned the secret of agile learning.
What if I could walk you through a way of learning that enables you to quickly pick out what’s important, so you can apply and remember it, in a way that will benefit you for your whole life?
Pearl Zhu beautifully describes this process of agile learning this way — “Learning agility means to learn, de-learn and relearn all the time; and then apply those lessons to succeed in new situations.” And she links this style of learning to a highly effective form of leadership, which we can all use right now — “Creative leadership can be described as ‘adaptability meets agility,’ and ‘innovation meets principles.’”
Agile learning enables you to learn something new in one situation and then apply what you have learned in an entirely different one. That’s because it’s based on seeing principles.
What are principles? They are fundamental truths that don’t change and can be applied to many situations. They’re those things about nature and human nature that we know to be a given.
Example: you know that boiling water will burn and blister your skin. So you don’t have to think twice about a fresh cup of coffee; if it spills, you know you’re going to get burned, even if it’s your first cup ever!
When you’re faced with a new situation and you don’t know what to do, stop and reflect on past experiences to look for similarities, which will lead you to the underlying principles.
Example: your friend asks if this guy is “the one” for her, and you remember the time you agreed that a love interest was a good fit for her, yet it turned out badly. You’re not going to make that mistake again, so you cushion your answer with questions about what she likes and dislikes about the guy. What’s the principle? When it comes to someone else’s life, they make the decision, because they have to live with it; you don’t. If you’re asked for your opinion, you can ask questions, but it’s not a good idea to tell them what to do.
Is it easy to see principles? Not if you’re new to thinking from this point of view. But the more you practice it, the better you’ll get. And if you’re going to be able to quickly pick out what’s important about the new thing you’re learning, this is a vital skill. Hone your ability to reflect on each situation and you’ll be quicker at seeing underlying principles.
If you’re committed to self-leadership and want to use agile learning to fuel your evolution and growth you need to be willing to commit to the following:
Push past your boundaries and take risks. Playing it safe and avoiding pain at all costs, is not the goal. Just think about your muscle flexibility. If you don’t move, your muscles will atrophy. If you want to be flexible and agile, you stretch beyond normal day-to-day movement, because you know that as you age you lose flexibility. The same principle of flexibility applies to learning.
Look for, and be excited about, opportunities to stretch your mind and understanding. When you accept the principle that it’s normal to make mistakes when you’re learning something new, you’re not going to be held back by fear of failure or get stuck in perfectionism.
Be willing to unlearn. There are times we’ve learned something that becomes outdated, especially related to technology. Or maybe we accepted something as a principle when in reality it was only a family opinion or community/cultural sentiment that’s proven unhelpful or unhealthful. Make it your aim to prove everything to yourself, based on all points of view.
Use each new thing you learn as a building block to the next. You can’t know everything, so mindfully avoid judgments upon yourself as you learn. Yes, learning can make you uncomfortable, because you’re in uncharted waters or you’re being challenged to think more deeply than you want. Once you establish a building block, which always supports your values, avoid second-guessing yourself.
Take responsibility for how you live and how you learn. Your life is what YOU make of it. Learn to roll with the punches, by becoming very aware of what your body wisdom is trying to tell you. The practice of mindfulness is so beneficial for this!
Agile learning requires that you rely on others to inform you. If you already knew everything, you wouldn’t be learning. So ask for feedback from others. View it as collaborating. At the least, they’re helping you to know yourself better. At the best, you’re creating something wonderful together. Be mindful that nothing stops learning faster than becoming defensive.
Do these words describe you…adaptable, resilient, open, quick to find the best solutions, unfazed, confident, innovative, current, collaborative, courageous, full of life, fully present? Then no doubt you are an agile learner. If you find yourself holding back, look for ways to step forward. You can become more agile with practice.
What new things have you learned recently? I’d love to hear about it on my Facebook page. As a life-long learner, I’m personally dedicated to learning new coaching skills that I can apply to myself and my clients. That’s my passion! If you’re interested in working with me, please schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation by phone or via Zoom, to see if we’re a good fit.
Photo thanks to Kelly Sikkema