Learning & Development

The 4 Secrets of Self-Motivated Learning

To some degree, we all have a deep desire to continue to learn and develop new skills. Whether you’re looking to brush up on new technology, or completely pivot the direction of your career, continuing education is essential to your career growth and intellectual value.


Skills are the new currency, so they say.


As innovation advances so does our need to understand, learn and adapt to new theories, trends and skills – which can be intimidating and frustrating. Being a beginner isn’t easy. In the face of change, many of us become dismissive, argumentative and demand to stay with the status quo.


“We have been doing things this way for a very long time and have seen tremendous results, why change now?” skeptics often ask.


Resisting change and refusing to learn new skills isn’t going to get you very far. Exceptional leaders understand learning new skills and challenging old practices sparks innovation and progress.

Yet, shifting your mindset to be vulnerable enough to admit that you don’t know everything and there are areas within your personal or professional life that you could benefit from learning more about isn’t easy.

The 4 Secrets of Self-Motivated Learning

Erika Andersen wrote a fantastic article for Harvard Business Review titled “Learning to Learn,” which offers up some mental tools and advice to help you master new skills. The article discusses how “a willingness to experiment and become novice again and again [is] an extremely discomforting notion for most of us.” But the people who succeed the most at learning have four major attributes, which are:

  1. Aspiration – Focusing on the positive benefits of learning a new skill.
  2. Self-awareness – Changing your inner narrative from “I don’t need to learn this!” to “What would my future look like if I did?”
  3. Curiosity – The importance of asking curious questions about a new subject or theory.
  4. Vulnerability – Accepting the fact that you are, in fact, new to the concept you are learning and you might not become an expert the first day, week or year after the lesson; becoming an expert takes time.

As an individual, it’s easy to see how you can apply these concepts and leverage this inspiration in your life, but what does this mean to L&D pros trying to guide learners through their development plans?

People want to learn, grow and succeed, but those aspirations require change and change is not an easy pill to swallow. Self-doubt and stubbornness can get in the way of an individual’s ability to learn and retain information, which is something trainers, coaches and leaders need to keep in the back of their minds. As you develop individual learning and succession plans in your organization, think about what you can do to cultivate aspiration, drive positive self-awareness, stimulate curiosity and shake off vulnerability. You just might see those learners overcome the learning curve and become successful, driven leaders.


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