What did you learn today?
We’re asked that question constantly when we’re kids, but for whatever reason it’s not posed as much in adulthood.
Consultant Kevin Eikenberry says regardless of your title or standing in your organization, you should continue to ask yourself the question — and hopefully have a strong answer. He offers these tips for fostering ongoing learning and professional development:
Take responsibility. Your development belongs to no one but y-o-u. If others offer assistance, dollars or opportunities, great — but don’t wait for that assistance to get started.
Create a learning focus. Long before asking, “What did I learn today?” ask yourself, “What do I want (or need) to learn today?” Create a monthly, quarterly and/or annual learning focus. There will be lessons learned at random times, but having this focus will help you consciously and intentionally learn the skills and knowledge that is most important to your growth right now.
Tie it to a powerful “why.” Why do you want to learn? What value will you gain — be it personal satisfaction, pleasure or a leg up for the next promotion? Tie your learning focus to things that matter to you deeply.
Connect everything together. Once you have your learning focus in view ask yourself, “How does this experience/situation/blog post/conversation/you-get-the-idea relate to what I need to learn?”
Devote time. Proof of how serious you are about learning is in your focus and in your calendar. However busy you are, it is a matter of prioritizing your learning and growth higher on your list.
“As a kid, I was asked a version of this question — ‘Did you learn your lesson?’ only after a mistake, as if there is only something to learn when we mess up,” Eikenberry recalls.
Do some tweaking to expand the usefulness of the idea. Look for lessons all of the time — not just after a mistake. Look for lessons in the positive: “What do we need to repeat to get those results again?”
And make the question more open and powerful: “What is the lesson to learn?” “What Worked?” “What should we do next time we’re in that situation?”
Learning only comes with reflection and the right questions. Once you find them, ask them more often and more intentionally.