Learning vs. performing — why we need both to grow

3 min read – 

When was the last time you embraced learning like you did when you were in school?

When was the last time you embraced learning like you did when you were in school? And I don’t mean through studying frantically and being psyched to attend classes. What I mean is embracing the fact that you’re not as good as you can be, yet, and it will take hours and days of trying, learning, failing and repeating. I’ll answer my question for you: you probably haven’t embraced learning for a long time. Here’s why and how you need to change that.

When we grow up and pass a certain age and it feels society is pressuring us to get our life together we tend to dive into what is called a performance-zone. We are scared shitless about making mistakes and tend to avoid situations where we need to try new things, things that we may not be able to execute perfectly yet. Even though we fully understand we learn a lot more from failing than we do from succeeding we just can’t shake this feeling of: ‘but what if I fail?’

Rest assured, it is not only your own head that makes it difficult to surpass this feeling. We put our kids through schools that evaluate succes based on grades and we hire people based on resumés indicating degrees. It is damn hard to find the time, momentum and proper support to learn safely without killing your chances or reputation. But in order to really grow and reach our full potential it is absolutely vital you create a learning-zone next to your performance-zone. But how?

Here are a couple of ways to make sure you can get back to learning once in a while.

1. Surround yourself with people that are likeminded and actually want you to grow Spend more time with people that motivate and support you when it comes to trying new things. Or better said, stop spending time with people that discourage you and make you feel like you need to perform all the time.

2. Find small and hobby-like projects to practice safe learning Don’t try to reinvent your current job all together (high-stakes) but focus on smaller projects on the side (low-stakes) that will help further develop your overall performance. For instance writing or acting classes or mindfulness and yoga.

3. Ask for help It is never easy to admit that you’re struggling. So don’t make it any harding than it needs to be. Find someone outside of your current workplace or group of friends that you are comfortable sharing your doubts and needs with. They may even give you new insights that you wouldn’t have gotten from the people you already surround yourself with.

4. Change your environment Home-traffic-work-traffic-home-sleep -> repeat. Does this look like your life? Change it up! Get some fresh air, work outdoors in a city park for a few hours, talk to strangers, go down to the petting zoo and pet a goat or bunny rabbit. Your brain needs fresh new impulses to get new ideas flowing and it needs some alone time to calibrate experiences.

Is your boss not too keen on ‘working-at-home’ days? Quit your job and find a smarter boss that recognizes the necessity to provide a playing field for her/his employees in which they can grow and be productive.

Last but not least. It all starts with actually wanting to learn. Focus on your wish to learn — not on your wish to succeed. What you feed will grow and if you don’t work towards a safe and motivating learning environment for yourself, others won’t either.

That’s it for now. Let me know what project or hobby you have taken on to boost your learning zone. I’ll start: I’m working on getting better at writing, specifically copywriting. I’ve been reading a lot more books lately trying to find patterns, styles and best practices. I’m quite sure I’ll be writing the President’s speech one day. Oh wait. I shouldn’t focus on succeeding. Right.. well. Good luck!

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