The Value of Learning as a Habit

We all have habits. If we foster them, they grow. We think about them and we share them with others, and we become accountable. We use them to ensure we are healthier, to learn, to better ourselves.

Looking across different industries, many leaders have developed the habit of learning to create a persona that can absorb information and expand the horizon of their understanding.

Bill Gates reads at least 40-50 books per year, and according to him, that’s his way of testing his understanding. Warren Buffett has six hours reserved for the reading, where he reads five newspapers. The great entrepreneur and an engineer, Elon Musk, self-taught himself the rocket designing. Let’s put it in simplistic words; learning is a way to keep growing rather than staying stagnant in the pool of knowledge you have. You need to thrive to attain more information because, to be honest, the world is saturated with knowledge, and all we must do is go out and grab it to continue to grow.

Shift your perspective

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Imagine you are a time traveler from the 1970s. You are a businessperson. You travel to 2020. You walk into corporate training. You see people talking to each other, drawing on whiteboards with each other’s in cartoon characters, you see them put things over their eyes (VR goggles) and start talking about what they see is happening as if it is happening to them in real life. Wow, what a change this would be for someone from 50 years ago. Now imagine if you picked one thing to learn each week. One week you are learning about diversity and inclusion, the next week about how to code a simple chatbot, then next how to work on your car, then maybe how to bake that turducken you always see on the web.

You now have a different perspective on things. You are growing a habit of learning. You now have new skills. You get excited to reach the next pinnacle of learning. Maybe next you will learn a language, you might learn how to be better at data visualization, you might want to experience the meditation. Your choice is now yours and you have this blocked out on the calendar, you have it set aside as “your time”. You have your own goals, your own ways to learn, whether it be podcasts, videos, or reading. You have shifted. You have a new perspective.

Remain Relevant

As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” As automation makes way for new ways of working, so does it make way for new roles. This means we need to be upskilled and reskilled. In the World Economic Forums Future of Jobs Report, they unpack and provide specific information on the relative magnitude of these trends by industry and geography, and on the expected time horizon for their impact to be felt on job functions, employment levels, and skills.

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The bottom line is that we will have lots of jobs, and lots of robots and machines to help us. Redundant skills will go away and handled by machines. Skills that are needed in the future won’t just be tech skills. We will see an increased need for creativity, communication, complex problem solving and others.

How will you increase your skill set in these areas? How will you be the one to make it to the top? Making time for learning will help but do it in ways that are nontraditional. It won’t be your boss who makes time, you will need to make the time. You will need to make it a habit to learn. While you are driving or taking the train to work – listen to an audiobook or podcast. While you are working out – watch a Ted Talk, which is 18 minutes where you can work on “reps” and learn. Set up coffee meetings with colleagues and mentors to ask about what they are learning.

Plan it, act on it, do it again. Commit to a minimum of 30 days. Anchor your habit is something you are passionate about or want to learn. Create a plan. Reward yourself when you hit your goals.

Have a healthy life

Let’s look at it another way. Take the physical aspects; the brain size decreases with the increase in age. This decrease can pose impacts such as affected focus and weakening attention, while unreliable memory becomes a major issue as we grow older. However, we can stimulate our brains even as we age. Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain brain cells and stimulate communication among them.

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Studies have shown that learning throughout our lives can improve self-esteem and increase life satisfaction. It can help with depression and other mental problems. In fact, it could help stave off Dementia. More studies have shown that if you challenge your mind through learning, puzzles, painting, playing, cards and the like it has short term and long-term benefits.

No matter what the intentions are, professional or personal, ensuring we are learning must be part of our daily habits and must be ongoing. Continuous learning is essential for mental health (mind exercises), but with the changing paradigms, professionals need to expand their knowledge even as we work alongside the likes of machine learning and artificial intelligence. We all know someone who would just “hide in the basement to play video games”, but today, they have made it big with their high-tech skills and developing career, the key is that they didn’t stop learning and they learned while playing those video games.

Habits do not always come naturally but can be incorporated through practice. So, from this moment onwards, reserve some time from your life and declare them the learning time. While the clock strikes the hour, open a book, an internet browser, talk to a colleague or mentor and learn about anything that you are passionate about. If you feel attached to the topics, the more you will learn!