All Learning Is Self Directed

It doesn't matter if there is a sage on the stage, a professor at the podium, or a tutor at the table:  all learning is self-directed.  This was the core premise of my recent TEDxIndianapolis talk (embedded below).  Too often when there is a designated teacher or trainer, we absolve the responsibility we have for making sure we actually learn something.  That simply is not sustainable.

If we truly want to consider ourselves lifelong learners, we must become more responsible for our own learning, more adept at designing and directing the learning experiences we most need, and more aware of how we engage in the learning opportunities life offers us each and every moment.

This is particularly important because we naturally narrow the range of our experiences and inputs as we age.  We begin to filter out what we consider to be extraneous or less relevant and hone in on sources and experiences we associate with providing "right answers." The quote from Edward deBono illustrates this aptly.

Some this is due in part to the formalized educational and professional development systems in which we engage (crayon creativity is not valued on most certification exams) and some of it is just the result of the limits on our attention.

As life goes on we increasingly become creatures of habit.  So to remain lifelong learners and to fight back against the natural attrition of our interests and attention, we must ask ourselves: what habits do we need to create?

I believe that our habits must reflect an intentional introduction of increasing diversity into our personal and professional lives coupled with a strong commitment to the process of ongoing discovery from these new and diverse people, perspectives, and experiences.  The value of increased diversity will be lost if not married to ongoing discovery as we often dismiss new ways of thinking or being that are not consistent with our existing understanding or experiences.

Life is a great teacher, but are we great students?  The challenge and opportunity is for each of us to rebuild our box of 64 crayons, to renew the sense of curiosity and wonder we had as a child, to embrace the reality that all learning is self-directed, and to change our habits to continually broaden our experiences and relationships and the meaning we make from them.

I expand on this in my 10-minute and 25-minute talks below and am available to do so in a longer keynote and workshop format.  Let me know if you'd like to bring this message to one of your conferences.  I'd love to share it.

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