Work, Matters!:Nurturing the habit of life-long learning – New Straits Times Online

ONE of the key traits that successful people have is their commitment to life-long learning.

Cultivating the habit of developing your mind through constant learning will guarantee that you get results. When you dedicate yourself to continuous learning, you will progress in all areas of life.

Even when choosing an employer, people who are successful will investigate how much of an integrated learning process a company might provide. They will check if their potential employer has a track record of training their staff, and their decision to join an organisation will be based on this.

The most effective people I know also read a lot. They attend conferences and conventions. And they go to numerous talks and forums. They are interested in anything and everything that can help them become more effective, and get results.

You must realise that learning has intrinsic advantages. It helps with your self-esteem.

As you learn, you gain competence. And, as you become competent at what you do, your confidence increases. I ask all the people I coach in my executive leadership coaching sessions to remember this.

As you learn, you also become less risk averse. Your confidence will boost your self-efficacy and you become more adaptable to change, when it happens. Learning will challenge your entrenched beliefs. This allows you to be receptive to new ideas. On the whole, learning helps you achieve a more satisfying personal life.

I reckon that there are two primary motivators for life-long learning — learning for personal development and learning for professional development. Of course in reality, the two reasons are interchangeable. Your personal growth will improve your employability. And your professional development will enable personal growth.

However, for the sake of clarity, I make a distinction between the two.

Lifelong learning for personal development is a vital habit that you need to cultivate. In fact it is a prerequisite for long lasting mental health. Groundbreaking research published by the National Institutes of Health in the United States indicate that those who continue learning new things throughout life, while challenging their brains, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Of course, there are other advantages for why people learn for personal development. For instance, I have a friend who at the age of 45, learnt deep-sea diving.

This precipitated his early retirement by the age of 50. He now spends a great deal of time diving in some of the most beautiful and exotic locations in Asia, and the world.

It has also spawned a new business venture for him.

And to be frank, he leads a far more fulfilling life than he ever did as a corporate practitioner.

The second reason for life-long learning is professional development.

You need to understand that your capacity to earn is directly linked to your capacity to learn.

Having good qualifications alone will not ensure that you get a rewarding job. In the modern context, the people who hire you are very interested in whether you have “transferable skills”. These are skills or abilities that are relevant and helpful across various disciplines. For this, you need to demonstrate that you are keen to learn and develop multiple skillsets.

Lifelong learning also makes sense from a financial stand-point. The more skills and knowledge you amass, the more you become an asset to your company. This will accelerate the chances of you getting promoted, and earning more.

Increased knowledge is also a significant feature of an effective leader.

My dear friend, Freda Liu, a name synonymous in the world of radio and television broadcasting in Malaysia, is the epitome of someone who has cultivated the habit of life-long learning.

She has interviewed some of the world’s most remarkable people like management guru Dr Stephen R. Covey, tetra-amelia syndrome bound motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, Hard Rock Café founder and philanthropist Isaac Tigrett, and so on.

And, in the mellifluous yet fickle world of broadcasting, Freda has withstood the test of time. She continues to be one the most recognisable female voices in Malaysia, a sought-after compere and host, a real beacon of light for young people, an accomplished author and much more.

Recently, I was chatting with her and I asked her what drives her forward. Her answer was clear and unequivocal. She keeps motivated by life-long learning, evolving and growing.

Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach atEQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”


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