14 September 2021
The pandemic, a house move, a new job, a divorce. They are all life transitions that can teach us something. But to live through these situations positively, we need to develop our ability to manage change. What’s possible? Self-directed learning is a key skill in this sense. As McKinsey explains, today intentional learning is the most important skill when living through life transformations, including working changes.
In the professional sphere, the World Economic Forum has identified the need to re-qualify at least a billion jobs that have been transformed thanks to technological changes. The impact of the pandemic has only accentuated the need for people to reskill when working online or remotely. It may seem like a daunting task, but it’s all part of our approach to these types of life transitions.
If change is a part of life, it’s our response to it that makes the difference. It all starts with us and our ability to tap into our personal resources. There’s no development without investment, and a difficult period can actually present an opportunity to hone virtuous processes.
We all go through tough patches. But we can transform them into positive energy if we face them with a proactive attitude. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl suggested “decisions, not conditions, determine what a man is”.
Change has always been a part of human history. But it’s not something that our brains will accept easily. They see “newness” as a threat and prefer to look at things that they’re already familiar with. The secret is knowing how to face transitions with realism.
Changing doesn’t mean starting over, though. We are our histories, our values, our ideas and projects in both our private and working lives. Changing ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of all that. It means knowing how to adapt to different situations.
That’s how self-directed learning can become a key skill for evolving our professional profiles. What’s more, we can all practice it to enhance our professional success over the long term. The important thing is that we train our brains to see newness differently.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck reminds us of this point, with her studies on mental openness and the impact it has on our opportunities for growth. “A closed mind doesn’t allow people the luxury of changing”.
Everyday experiences and interactions offer us incredible learning opportunities. But only if we’re intentional about learning from every opportunity. Throughout continuous learning, people’s reflections allow us to become more aware of our ability to manage change and face life transitions.
Learning becomes a training ground in itself. Just like every exercise, we need to block out time to practise. What’s more, we need to adopt a growth mindset and be curious. These elements drive our learning, but those who aren’t naturally curious can also train themselves in these areas.
So how can we hone our skills and curiosity? By facing our fears and asking questions, but also experiencing new things, such as life transitions. It’s essential to focus on what we love doing, trying new things and making mistakes, making space for our identity dimensions, and not just those working ones.
Whatever form curiosity presents itself, it helps us to stay mentally agile and aware, increasing our perspectives and preparing for new learnings.