5 reasons you might want to learn more

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Our need to learn doesn’t stop when we graduate from college. So why do so many of us act as though it does?….

I am 55 years old. I have an honours degree in political science. I’ve written professionally for 33 years and was a senior editor at a metropolitan daily for six of them.

And I just signed up for some more continuing education. Yes, more lessons!

Am I crazy? Shouldn’t I be beyond that sort of obscure longing for improvement at this stage in my career?

I don’t think so. Longing for improvement – no matter how amorphous – is healthy. It’s a sign of dignity and self-respect and, frankly, it’s the only way to get better at what you do. Do you know that most people don’t improve their job performances once they’ve gone beyond basic training? Think about yourself. Have you done anything to improve your work performance in the last five years?

Atul Gawande, a Boston-based surgeon and a writer, has taken some dramatic steps in his own career. Two years ago, he hired a surgical coach – to the apparent shock of his colleagues and patients. I encourage you to read about his experience in his article in the New Yorker.

In the recent past, I too, have taken a fair bit of coaching. (Although in my lower-profile case it required less guts than Gawande demonstrated.) I had a really good business coach for about a year. Then I took some Internet coaching. I also enrolled in an excellent two-day public speaking course. And right now I have a search engine optimization (SEO) coach based in England with whom I speak by Skype once a month.

Furthermore, I’ve just signed up for a Deliberate Practice course with Cal Newport. If you’ve read any of my posts on Deliberate Practice, you’ll understand how eager I am to explore this rich arena.

As I thought about how to convey to you my passion for continuing education, I made a mindmap about what, exactly, appeals. I think it comes down to five areas:

1)  I want to get better at what I’m doing. Perhaps this is simply more evidence of my ongoing struggle with perfectionism (perfectionism is not a good thing, if you didn’t know that) but I think it also reflects the intrinsic joy many of us get out of learning how to do something better.

2)  Taking a course makes learning more fun. Getting better at something is often not particularly amusing – think, for example, of how hard it is to run or do pushups if you haven’t done either in six months. But when a teacher or coach doles out the messages in bite-sized pieces and, when you have the opportunity to connect with other learners, you can have a really good time while learning.

3)  When I get better at something, I can do it faster. This gives me the ability to spend my time and attention on other interesting tasks. Like most people I enjoy feeling efficient and productive. If I get my work done quickly, I have more time for other things I really like to do such as reading, walking or cooking.

4)  Learning eliminates boredom. Have you ever noticed that the more you learn about something the more interesting it becomes? Aren’t you more interested in what happens to friends than to strangers? Similarly, if you learn more about a task or a subject, you start to care more about it. And your caring affects your performance.

5)  If there’s something I do regularly, I want to look forward to it, not dread it. If we’re competent at tasks, we can do them without fear and anxiety.

I used to dread writing. Now it’s my favourite activity of any day. If you’re interested in feeling the same way, check out my Extreme Writing Makeover, a start-anytime 53-week email-based course, or consider some one-on-one coaching with me.

No matter what our age or experience, we can always learn more.

How do you improve your own writing skills? We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)

Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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