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In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford professor Dr. Carol Dweck discusses the dichotomy of the growth and fixed mindsets in relation to learning, and explains that people with a growth mindset believe they can accomplish something through hard work and persistence whereas people with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and ability are fixed, or innate within us. In other words, embracing the belief that skills and capabilities can be cultivated can lead to a whole new world of possibilities.
Dweck’s research has transformed beliefs about potential and abilities, and now we know that if we believe we can achieve something, we likely will. Adopting a mindset that is open to growth inherently promotes lifelong learning and motivates us to try harder, achieve more, and strive for ambitious goals.
For professionals and job seekers, a growth mindset can bolster your job search campaign and help you proactively manage your career. If you approach learning with a growth mindset and put in enough effort, you can and will learn and become more knowledgeable or skilled. This is wonderfully empowering and can be applied to many areas of life.
Four Ways to Expand Your Skills and Knowledge
Consider the following suggestions as inspiration as you lean toward lifelong learning.
- Join professional organizations and take advantage of your membership. Read their print and online content, and attend professional development conferences.
- Activate a different part of your brain by learning something wildly different from what you do professionally. Engaging in something new can be invigorating—and can be an interesting conversation piece. If there is something that you’d like to learn about that feels like a world away from what you do professionally, give it a shot. And remember that it’s completely acceptable to enjoy the benefits of learning without achieving mastery right away (or ever).
- Dive deeper into a subject you already know well. Even if you’re an expert on a topic or have mastered a skill, there’s almost always more you can learn. Maintaining that “expert” status can be the added motivation you need to seek out the latest discoveries, research, and information related to a subject you’re passionate about. One simple way to incorporate this strategy into your routine is through LinkedIn: follow relevant companies and organizations and join pertinent groups so you can stay on top of trends.
- Choose a learning activity that includes a challenge or goal. Goal setting can be particularly helpful to keep you accountable. Recently, a colleague and I committed to completing a Learning Path on LinkedIn, and, together, we are learning new information not only through watching the videos but also through structured conversations on each topic.
How to Build Learning into Your Schedule
When you feel overscheduled, the time implications of saying yes to learning probably seem daunting. Here are a few ways you may able to fit learning into your busy life.
- Start with a small but regularly scheduled block of time. Schedule a very brief amount of time (15 minutes to start). It’s easier to give up a small block of time—one that you might use for a coffee break, for example—than to schedule an hour or more and then get into a time crunch and have to bump or cancel your learning block. You’ll find that once you’re engaged in learning, there’s more where that came from. And once you form a habit, it’s amazing how you can’t imagine not doing it before.
- If you’re a morning person—or even if you’re not (yet)—start your day with a learning activity. You’ll likely never have to watch a Bob Ross YouTube tutorial on making his notorious “happy little trees,” so take a few minutes before you get ready for work to learn how to improve your painting skills. You’ll be glad that you did.
- Double up. If you routinely do a passive activity that allows you to (safely) divide your concentration, you can use it as an opportunity to fit in learning time. For instance, listen to a podcast while commuting, or an e-book while running or walking.
- Add accountability. Commit by telling someone your goal and plans, invest a little money, or join a class that has set times and/or a physical location versus doing something that’s self-paced or where you’re only accountable to yourself. It’s remarkable how you can make the time for a new activity when you feel you’ll be letting other people down, not just yourself.
As a first step on the path to lifelong learning, adopt a growth mindset and train your brain to say “yes!” to opportunities to learn—whether they are professional or personal. Then find an approach that appeals to you, and make the time for your activity. Before you know it, learning will be a habit. You won’t regret it!