Provision #244: Experiment

Laser Provision

This week we focus on learning as an effective motivational tool. When was the last time you set out to learn something new? It’s not hard to do, regardless of your age. Approach your life as a never-ending, three-dimensional, multimedia experiment and you’ll master the art of learning.

LifeTrek Provision

Many of you read this newsletter with a careful eye. Last week I forgot to change the title and number of the Provision I sent out by email. A number of readers wrote to let me know of the oversight. One asked about the mistake while another expressed disappointment that I was reprinting a prior week’s issue. Au contraire!

To all those who wondered but did not write, now you know: this was a case of mistaken identity on one line only. The correct number was 243 and the correct title was “Share the Joy.” I was building on my Provision from the week before: “Have Fun.” The point was simply this: want to stay motivated for life? Find something you enjoy doing, and do it. Doing it with others makes that strategy even more effective.

This week I turn to another motivator of human behavior: learning. In many ways, learning works just like joy. It can be a goal, a need, and a value. Some people think of joy as a goal (something they want more of). Others relate to it as a need • perhaps not as basic as food and water, but certainly no less important. Still others make it a point of experiencing joy each and every day • on principle. No trouble can get in the way.

So too with learning. It can be something we seek, need, and value • all at the same time. That’s good, because most people do not find goals alone to be very motivating. Goals only work for about 25% of the population. We know what happens with New Year’s Resolutions: lose weight, get in shape, and make more money. For a few weeks, maybe even for a few months, we discipline ourselves to achieve the goal. Then life moves on and before you know it, there goes the goal. So much for another year!

That’s why, as a coach, I seek solutions that do not require significant discipline and will-power. I like simple, easy, effortless solutions that take care of themselves. Coaches sometimes call such solutions “automatic sprinkler systems.” Set up right, the systems go off, without your even thinking about them, to support you when you need them. They really can work that way to bolster your motivation.

That’s why I like motivators which focus more on the trek than on the target. I don’t like to prescribe norms (e.g., 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 5 days a week) I’d rather experiment with processes. Having fun and sharing the joy are examples of processes that can keep you motivated for life.

So too when it comes to the matter of learning. Learning may not always include joy, but learning is just as fundamental to our being. Some have gone so far as to suggest that our capacity for learning, not only from our own experience but from the experience of others, sets us apart from all other creatures. It certainly ranks at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as part of what he called self-actualization. Without learning, we can never be fully human.

Unfortunately, for many people the passion for learning gets vanquished early in life. The questions “What?” “Why?” and “How?” form the basis of every toddler’s vocabulary. Curiosity leads children to explore, question, and wonder. At certain stages of development, the passion to learn “What?” “Why?” and “How?” is irrepressible (and has tried the patience of many a parent).

By adulthood, the flames of curiosity have diminished considerably. “Been there, done that, nothing new under the sun” cynicism has taken root and taken over. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can learn something new at any age, and taking on the challenge of doing so can make a huge difference in our quality of life.

Many people like to play with the question, “What would you do if you knew you only had one month to live?” A worthwhile question to ponder, to be sure. But there’s an equally worthwhile question: “What would you do if you knew you had 50 more years to live?” Many of us do have that long, but we fail to act accordingly. We fail to learn something new “at our age” because learning is for kids and young adults.

Don’t be fooled. When we stop learning, we stop living. Find something you don’t know how to do and teach yourself how. I know one person who’s taken up snowboarding, another who’s learning Chinese, and a third who’s become a licensed massage therapist • all past 40 or 50 years old. For myself, I’ve taken to memorizing poetry. After hearing David Whyte about 18 months ago recite poetry at an International Coach Federation conference, I decided to learn some poems myself. Up until that time I had not memorized a single poem. Now I have scores of poems memorized. Who says you lose brain cells as you get older!

A great way to learn something is to experiment with the subject. Don’t just sit there and think about it. Do it. Get on the slopes. Take a class. Find a massage partner. Pick a poem. If it doesn’t work out, that’s OK. You’ll still learn something new from the experiment! That’s what the scientific method is all about. Test your ideas. Control the variables. Learn something new for a change. Take that one on, even at your age, and you’ll stay motivated for life.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

I am gratified that a bigwig like you personally responded to my email. Congratulations on the growth of your business. BTW, have you heard of a personality test called “The Color Code?” It pegged me better than any other assessment I have ever done. (Ed. Note: See the LifeTrek bookstore (Click) for The Color Code link. PS • I don’t make a very good bigwig.)

Thank you for helping me to understand motivation.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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