January 17, 2023

How to become Intentional Learner

Learning itself is a skill. Developing a mindset of intentional learning is a critical factor for long term career success.  Those who mastered their intentional learning mindset have the advantage of fast growing than their colleagues and can gain bigger value from every learning opportunity that comes their way.

Each of us can become an intentional learner. There are two critical mindsets and three core behaviors to become it.  It’s not as big as you think; in fact, you may be doing some of these already.

Switch to Growth Mindset

Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck says that it's not intelligence, talent or education that sets successful people apart. It's their mindset, or the way that they approach life's challenges. According to Dweck, people either have a fixed or a growth mindset, and the one that you adopt can affect every aspect of your life.

If you have a fixed mindset, you will likely fear that you may not be smart or talented enough to achieve  your goals. Any feedback or criticism you take as the judgment of your competence.

On the other hand If you have a growth mindset, you believe that, with effort, perseverance and drive, you can develop your natural qualities. You use feedback  and mistakes as opportunities to improve, while enjoying the process of learning and becoming more productive.

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Good news is, Dweck provides 4 simple steps you can take to switch from fixed to growth mindset, although each of us has both representants inside of us:

  • Listen to yourself
  • Recognize that you have a choice
  • Challenge your fixed mindset
  • Take an action

Nurture your Curiosity

Curiosity sparks inspiration. It is the generator of intentional learning. There is the relationship from field surveys among curiosity, learning and performance. Every person has their own curiosity which differs by level. The more curious you are the more you can learn.

  • Ask good questions - Why?, What if ?, How might we? etc.
  • Be Inquisitive  - to prevent stagnation by feeding your mind with something new
  • Explore and Broad you interest – experiment, try topic from different area

A growth mindset and well nurtured curiosity are the solid body of intentional learning. But when you develop your learning intensive body, it’s also important to customize your forces and drive your energy effectively.

Here are 3 best-practice behaviors to help intentional learners to get the most out of them:

1. Set a SMART target (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, TimeBound)

Set a target that is meaningful for you. It will bring you a source of energy and motivation. Yours may be a career goal (e.g. becoming a chief human resources officer) or something more skill specific—e.g. improving your writing skills. Take time to express for yourself what does this goal mean to you personally?

2. Develop plan to achieve your SMART target

Consider beneficial action steps and those that are neither realistic nor effective or disruptive. Break down all the behavior, skills, know how etc. you need to learn / practice to make your target happen.

Ask for help and seek the experts. It is difficult to grow when you don’t know what good looks like. Mentoring from experts can give you interesting insights.

3. Practice Deliberately & be Gritty

Practice is absolutely crucial to learning. There are no shortcuts to excellence. The core of all behavioral skills stays a continuous pattern of practicing, failing, refining approach, and practicing again, because: „Experts are always made, not born“.

Only, “Deliberate Practice” creates expertise, believes psychologist K. Anders Ericsson.  Deliberate practice stands just beyond your current set of skills with just the right level of challenge. To strive for continuous improvement, you need to cultivate reflection, constantly ask for actionable feedback and decide which way you want to treat it. This is the habit of the best intentional learners.

“Grit“ is a combination of your passion and perseverance for long term goals. Gritty people don’t give up easily. They fall down seven times, get up eight times. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn't.” by Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, author of Grit: the power of Passion and Perseverance.

Here you can get a Grit score that reflects how passionate and persevering you are.

Priorly, intentional learning is a life investment we make in ourselves.  Equally, it is an investment we make in our professions to nurture them more, our families, our community groups and also our organizations. The depth of intention improves our skills, behavior, keeps us curious, inspired and motivated for a long time.

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