Three Tips to Help You Get Excited About Learning

September 1, 2016

One of the biggest challenges of my job is transforming how people think about learning.

It's often that someone in the middle of their career sees learning as something they “have” to do. For 12-plus years of school, learning was a job to them, and one that didn’t have a lot of company perks.

After they left school and entered a career, the lack of training started to become a liability. Training and learning started to become based in fear—fear of falling behind.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. Learning is actually a tool—an incredibly powerful one—that you can use to help you. Learning can be something you “want” to do, instead of feeling you “have” to do it.

Making that leap isn’t easy, but here are three tips that’ll help you change how you look at training and learning:

1. It doesn’t have to be about work. In fact, at first, it shouldn’t be.

As you start your journey to change your outlook on learning, don’t trap yourself in the belief that you need to learn something for your job. Learning is a muscle that needs to be exercised, but you need to make it fun and enjoyable to build a long-term habit.

If you are starting a new workout routine, it's smart to start with something that you like to do, and then add in elements that will make your workouts more difficult. So, if you are interested in design, music or something else, start your learning there and, over time, start adding elements you need for work.

2. Hike to the next hill, not to the end of the trail.

This is a tip that I sometimes need to remind myself at times.

Sometimes, when I set off to learn something new, I’ll go buy a book or start taking an online course and I’ll just look at the overall size of what I need to learn. When you look at it from the outside, it really seems intimidating. But, if you change your perspective and look at it from the inside, you think only of the next step in front of you.

It is like going for a hike. To keep yourself motivated and energized, you should think of the next hill—not the entire length of the trail. After that hill, you can take a break, look back at your accomplishment, have a sip of water, and then look ahead at the next hill.

Approaching learning in the same way can make it feel less intimidating.

3. Learning is playtime. So have fun with it.

Often, if I’m learning some new technology, programming language or tool, the examples that are in the training can be somewhat dull. So, to make it more interesting, I swap things out with things that make learning more playful.

I might swap names for family members or pets. To reinforce what I learned, I’ll make programs, apps or create things that are related to Star Trek or James Bond—two of my favorite TV and movie series.

Learning how to create a Pivot Table based on fake data from MI6 is much interesting than for some anonymous corporation. It helps make something that would otherwise be dull into something much more interesting.

These tips help me a lot when I need to change my attitudes toward learning. They mostly are mind tricks, but sometimes that is what you need.

As you move beyond these, you find that you associate play and fun with learning, and you transform the belief that you “need” to learn to the desire to “want” to learn.

*Image by Death to the Stock Photo