WE ARE, OF COURSE, ALREADY WIRED UP FOR LEARNING. SITTING ON A bus, standing in a queue, watching an argument, struggling with a new computer application—we learn things all the time without really realizing it. Our mind is permanently "wired up" to learn and it is continually processing new experiences.
However, being wired up is not the same thing as being switched on. We may have a good understanding of how our mind works, be emotionally ready, and have the ideal learning environment (see later in this chapter), but if we are not determined to act, all our preparations will be in vain. Even if you are emotionally ready to learn, you have to actively engage your mind to get the best out of life.
You need, as Charles Handy puts it, to cultivate a particular kind of selfishness:
Proper, responsible selfishness, involves a purpose and goal. It is that goal which pulls out the energy to move the wheel. Diminish that goal, displace it, or worst of all, disallow it and we remove all incentive to learn or to change.
Not surprisingly, we all have different reasons for wanting to learn. And in an age where lifelong learning is becoming increasingly significant, knowing more about our motivation to learn is very important. Interestingly, it is only recently that we have begun to understand more about what turns us on to and off from learning. The Campaign for Learning was one of the first organizations in the world to undertake research into this subject and has subsequently helped to persuade the British government to gather this kind of national data regularly in large-scale annual opinion polls.
In its 1998 survey, the Campaign asked individuals how they thought learning could be most useful to them personally. The results give a clear indication of what might switch us on:
Source: Attitudes to Learning, MORI, 1998
This is an interesting mixture of personal, social, and economic or work-related reasons, but the most significant ones given are personal, about realizing individual potential. It is a central argument of Power Up Your Mind that learning to learn involves learning to develop the full range of your intelligences in your work and in your personal life.
The Campaign for Learning also asked people to say which phrase would be most likely to switch them on. The two most popular were:
When we probed further and asked working adults what would encourage them to learn something related to their work, the following were preferred:
Helping me to achieve what I want out of life Satisfying my personal curiosity Improving my job prospects Improving my quality of life Stretching my brain Increasing my self-confidence Improving performance in current job Increase salary
Improving my standard of living
Discover the talents within you Learn now for a better future
There's more to your job than people realize: get your skills recognized, get qualified Learn more, earn more Learning pays
Learndirect, a major British online learning initiative, has subsequently adopted the idea of discovering your hidden talents within as its trademark slogan after much independent research.
What turns you on to learning? Do you agree with these phrases? If not, what would you prefer? i
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The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.