When I worked in finance I was required to undertake ‘Continuing Professional Development’ , CPD, on an annual basis. For the best part I was fortunate; I took action ahead of time and was able to undertake this requirement (in my case a minimum of 40 hours per year) without any last minute panic and therefore mostly by reading up on subjects that interested me. OK, there was only really one area that really interested me – anything associated with leadership and motivational theory.
However, there were several occasions where certain talks or lectures were mandatory; company policy to learn about company policies, or being whisked away from the comfort of spreadsheets to be warned of the latest potential Law or Directive that, if it ever came into legislation, would mean the end of us all. Like a dire prophecy from a fairy tale, but with sub-clauses, caveats and an open-ended consultation period.
You might take from this that I didn’t enjoy doing CPD. Well, yes and no really (as my manager at my first accountancy job was apt to say). Rather, what I didn’t enjoy was the learning experience. I was being asked to learn in an environment, in a style that simply didn’t suit me. So why was this?
Three Styles Of Learning
Essentially, learning can be summarised into three styles:
- Auditory (one learns by hearing);
- Visual (one learns by seeing); and
- Kinesthetic (one learns by doing).
The process of learning can be a combination of all three depending on what is being learnt and the manner in which it is being studied. Whilst none of us are wholly one type, we will have a bias to certain styles of learning. For example, I’m a very kinesthetic learner; I learn best when physically engaged. Let me push the buttons and get my hands dirty. Next would be visual, I’m quite good at picking up a book or an article and engaging with it. So as you can imagine, I’m not a very good auditory learner. And CPD was primarily auditory learning. (Usually served up with a dash of Death By Powerpoint for good measure too.)
Learning For Learning’s Sake
Yet that’s not the sole reason, nor do I believe the key reason that I didn’t enjoy this learning experience. The simple fact of the matter was that I wasn’t passionate enough about my then career. Yes, I was good at it, but I didn’t leave each day with a feeling of achievement, of progress. So learning how to do more of that (career), or learning how to do some of it better was not the solution. For there was no alignment.
Fortunately I no longer experience this. In choosing to work in the world of wellness and health I find that my goals and values are in direct alignment with what I want to learn. The pay-off is in the process. Whether I’m learning the correct technique for a certain exercise or reading up on benefits of a certain yoga style I’m engaged in the learning process as the learning process speaks to my values and motivations.
In coaching I have to meet the needs of each and every client; not only what their goals may be, but also – and perhaps crucially – how best do they learn? How can I repackage my skill and knowledge (ie: information) in such a way that it is knowledge to them (ie: not simply information). How can I give my knowledge in a way that is inspiring and empowering? That is my challenge with learning styles today.
Over To You
How would you describe your feelings towards learning? Which styles and methods suit you best, how do you best learn? Are the things you are studying or learning in good alignment with your values and aspirations? If not, how might you change the playing field to your advantage?
I’d love to hear your comments and stories on learning and I want to leave you with this brilliant infographic about someone for whom learning was not straight-forward.