Should you really bother with continuous learning?
Retention of knowledge, skills and abilities can quickly decrease if you do not practice them frequently.
Continuous learning provides you with the opportunity to update existing skills and abilities, learn how to do new tasks and retain what you already know.
When learning a new skill, there are four (4) stages that you progress through as you learn:
Stage 1: Unconsciously Incompetent
When you start to learn something new, you do not yet know all the knowledge and skills that you need but do not yet possess.
Have you ever started a new job and felt completely confident until you realised that you actually have a lot to learn? When you felt that confidence you were unconsciously incompetent.
This is when you don’t yet know all the things that you don’t yet know. So, there is no fear of the unknown at this stage, because you are not aware that there is an unknown.
Stage 2: Consciously Incompetent
When you start to become aware of the unknown, that is, aware of all the knowledge and skills that you don’t yet possess, the fear starts to kick in.
This is because you are consciously aware of your incompetence. That is uncomfortable for anyone.
In this stage, you are aware of how much you need to learn to be competent. And it feels like a long journey. This is the stage where you start to doubt yourself and your abilities. We have all been there!
As you continually practice existing skills and learn new ones, you will start to improve your competency.
Stage 3: Consciously Competent
And then, all of a sudden, you’re doing it!
It feels like something has just clicked and you suddenly have new skills and abilities. Remember when you felt ecstatic when you completed a new task correctly for the first time? And you can repeat it over and over again with no problems?
This excitement is because you are consciously aware of your competence, and you feel invincible.
The doubt and imposter syndrome has vanished as you have kicked your incompetence to the curb by continually learning.
Stage 4: Unconsciously Competent
There are a lot of things that you can do without even thinking. Driving a car, cooking a meal, riding a bike, completing some work tasks, talking to clients.
The list can continue. Take some time to think about tasks you do as though they are second nature.
You can complete these tasks almost automatically because you have continuously practiced them and retained your skills.
You are unaware of your competency; you just do it.
To have the ability to move through these four learning stages, you must devote time to continuous learning.
How can you start to continuously learn?
Ready to start to devote time to continuously learning?
Great! Here are our recommended steps to make a start.
Step 1: Reset your Mindset
Many new ventures start with a reset of your mindset. You want a change, and that is obvious, but why do you want it?
Mindset is about exploring the why. You do this so that when you are in Stage 2 of learning, where you feel incompetent, you can confidently control the imposter syndrome and self-doubt.
Take the time now to answer the following questions:
- Why do you want to continuously learn?
- What will it help you to achieve?
- How will it make you feel?
- What will it help you to avoid or stop feeling?
- How would you feel if you don’t achieve your goals?
When you feel incompetent, having these answers readily available will help you to remember that it will get better, but not if you quit.
Step 2: Set realistic Goals
Now that you know your why, for example to stop feeling frustrated and start feeling competent, It is now time to set a goal.
Your goal needs to be realistic and achievable. If you want, you can follow the SMART goal setting strategy.
If that is not for you, set a goal that you know is aligned with your motivations. For example, writing a goal of ‘study for 2 hours a day’ is not a clear nor realistic goal. In fact, it is a plan to reach an audacious goal not a goal itself.
When writing your goal, consider the following:
- What will you be learning?
- What is the absolute end goal you want to achieve?
- What is the timeframe?
- Can you commit to achieve that goal in the timeframe?
An example of a goal is ‘Learn how to use Microsoft Excel before the next quarter business performance review to stop feeling overwhelmed’
This goal is specific and clear that has a timeframe associated to it which is reasonable and realistic.
Take this time to write your goal.
Step 3: Create a Plan
Now that you have your goal, you need a game plan to reach it.
Think of this as the tasks (recurring or not) that must be completed to achieve the end goal.
For example, in the above goal you may identify that you need to attend training events to learn how to use Microsoft Excel.
That is a valid point, and most would assume that for continuous learning you must attend training sessions. While courses are a method of learning, don’t fall into the trap of signing up for every free webinar or training event that you see online about Microsoft Excel. That will waste your precious time. So will endless YouTube streaming. There are many other methods for continous learning, read more about them here.
Continuous learning is a strategic decision that requires a strategic plan.
Consider the above example goal. To feel less overwhelmed in the next quarterly review, the plan must focus on how to feel less overwhelmed or frustrated.
The plan should start with identifying what is causing the frustration. For example, if the frustration is coming from having to deal with fixing data in excel for hours, then the learning should be focused on fixing that issue.
You can see how attending just any Microsoft Excel training session may not tackle the problems that need to be solved to achieve the goal. Here at CTSA, we ensure it is very clear exactly what you will be learning in each training session so that you can choose the best to reach your goal. Click here to explore our desktop application training sessions.
By starting your plan with identifying what the actual problem is that needs to be solved, you will create a solid plan to reach your continuous learning goal.
Conclusion: Your Task
That feeling of excitement as you have finally mastered a skill is too precious to throw away.
Continuous learning helps you to maintain your competency and retain your skills.
Now it is over to you. Your task is simple: make the decision to invest time and focus on your continuous learning.
Remember, the very first step is to shift your mindset. Focus on the reasons why you are invested in your continuous learning. After this, setting the goal and creating the plan naturally fall into place with your motivation and commitment.
Here at CTSA, we offer a variety of courses to help you with your continuous learning, click here to learn more about the training we offer.