I was always fascinated by the way farmers plan ahead, sometimes even on a horizon of more years. My grandfather keeps reminding me that at some point when I was a little boy, I warned him that I will never become a farmer like him. While my warning did become reality (although I do not recall that episode), I did steal from his knowledge. Not using it for cultivating plants, but I’m rather cultivating my own learning. Let me explain what I mean by this :).
If a farmer wants to have a good harvest, he can not let nature run its course and pray for the best. He needs to take active measures in planning, plowing, sowing, weeding, harvesting, storing, etc. He needs to think ahead and take into account numerous factors:
- What plants will cover his needs? What landscape/decor does he want to create in his garden?
- Will he be able to harvest the fruits of his work in the same year, or does he need to be patient and work for several years in a row before he can enjoy them?
- How will the plants interact with each other? Will they support each other (like corn and bean plants) or will they compete for the same resources?
- Is the land he has now enough or does he need to acquire more?
Learning is pretty much similar. If you let external factors control it, you risk having it outgrown by “weeds”. If you want to achieve great success, you need to actively take control of your own learning, rather than expecting it to “grow” by itself! Here are six steps for doing that:
- Envision your “harvest”. What do you want to achieve? How is your future self looking like? Is he/she more efficient at work? Is he/she ready to plunge and change his/her lifestyle? Maybe start a new business and gain financial freedom? Is he/she healthier? Or maybe just more sociable?
- Describe your harvest in greater detail. Decide what you REALLY want to achieve. There are many ways to become more sociable or the spirit of a party, for example. You could choose to learn magic tricks in order to entertain the guests. Or you could just as well learn to play the guitar. Or learn more about psychology and how to get over your fear when interacting with others. These are just 3 examples – but they are more specific and tangible than just saying “I want to be more sociable”. They will become your Learning Goals (or seeds).
- Survey the “land” and check what resources you have at hand. Where are you in regards to your vision of your future self and your learning objectives? Do you need more resources? Do you need to readjust them? Prioritise them?
- Plan ahead! Not all seeds need to be planted at the same time! And not all of them need the same amount of effort from your side. It might just as well happen that you could start from cuttings (previous experience), rather than seeds (from scratch).
- Execute and assess. Even though the plants might survive on their own, the harvest will definitely not be great. Weeds, drought, lack of nutrients, pests – there are just some things that can stand in between you and your dream harvest. The same applies to learning. You could just say that I’m going to school, or I’m going to a training, or I’m taking a class or a course and hope that you will improve. If you would take active measures and control the whole learning process you can grow much faster. Also, it’s good to take an honest look at what’s happening and every now and then decide if you are on track or not. You could easily get distracted, or find the wrong resources, or you could just procrastinate and delay reaching the objective.
- Harvest Time. This is when you “harvest” the results of your work – your new and improved skills or knowledge. More than this, you’re already thinking about the next steps. What can you use as “seeds” for the next learning objective? What can you use to fuel your progress? What can you share with family, friends and colleagues?
A good learner slowly, but surely, gets to a point in which he/she masters all of these steps. They become his second nature and learning becomes his/her driving engine. How does your learning garden look like? Leave me a comment below!