Constant Learning

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April 2018

It’s the second quarter of 2018. I have been on my coaching journey now for a year and a bit; and boy has it been a revealing journey. Suffice is to say that I have a few months to go before the formal structured lessons are over and the practical journey of accreditation begins. That is daunting for several reasons. I must prove that I am a worthy coach by the number of hours I have clocked coaching others and being coached. I need 100hrs under my belt for the former. There is no possibility of cheating because, 100 hours is quite significant and in statistical terms, it should take my coaching skills, patterns and processes from haphazard to visible structure. Furthermore, I must receive 45hours of coaching. I am coached by qualified professionals and they must see a credible pattern in my coaching skills, framework and design emerging. This includes choice of conceptual basis, application of the concept to the specific task at hand complete with the structure on how I move with client issue from start to finish.

I was telling a colleague recently that when I am out there coaching someone, I am aware of what I am doing and trying very hard to not only follow the procedures but also infuse some aspects of what is vintage me. I believe I am compassionate and sensitive by nature. These attributes can be disarming to the client and enable them to ‘tell all’. However, in coaching we must be mindful of the boundaries between therapy and coaching. Scholars have mentioned that every person has past experiences both happy and sad and good and bad which they pack away somewhere in their subconscious. In their journey of life some of these experiences show up is peculiar behaviours some of which are hard to change. Some of them are quite disruptive to these people in the way they make decisions. Some of these experiences exhibit weaknesses which are hard to overcome and on the flip side, some experiences strengthen peoples resolve to avoid a repetition of what happened. In the process, they miss out on life’s joys. Coaching can highlight these connections and bring such causes to the surface.  Therapy is another way of resolving these subconscious demons. By and large however, the knowledge and understanding that something within you is controlling your life is quite empowering. These ‘demons’ are disruptive and can influence why they are unable to hold down a job, successful relationships or why they are in trouble with the authorities.

In short, coaching is also an opportunity for people to, unearth their past experiences, align them with where they are now and understand how the two can co-exist in a productive way to get to their objectives in the future. To suppress and deny its existence is folly because the unconscious is alive and well in our behaviours. The contradictions between words and behaviours will always be a point of enquiry or curiosity. The unconscious being shows up when we are in a state of vulnerability, weakness, loss, fear, confusion, sadness and even rejection. We must explain to ourselves why we feel the way we do about certain things and how we can get out of it. For this to happen, we must get real and recognise what else is impacting on our present situation and respectfully deal with the issues before we go forward.

We can never totally get rid of our past. The most we can do is to continue learning new things that will impact on our current knowledge and experience base. These new experiences can help us to minimise the memories of the past and amplify our current memories. In the same way, those experiences which traumatise us and make us unhappy and anxious can be dealt with in the same way. I do not profess to be a therapist who is proposing a simplistic way solution to peoples’ awful experiences which plague them through-out their lives.

There are two things that are cardinal in outgrowing our experiences.

Continue learning new things

Act on the new learning.

Learning changes our outlook on the world and accordingly changes our behaviours. Act on the new learning that we acquire. There is no point in learning something new and leaving it dormant in our brains. By definition, learning must be purposeful for it to make an impact on our lives and the lives of others; otherwise it does not qualify as such.

If I extrapolate that concept to the real world, what can we say about those people who refuse to change and continue along the same lines of thought and practice despite the passage of time and changing circumstances? Can we say these people have stopped learning? Is it possible that they have not acquired new information or experiences that will change their behaviour? Well. It is said learning must be purposeful for it to qualify as such. We can therefore deduce that learning for some people is a function that they must attend even though they have absolutely no motivation to do so. They go through the motions and leave without that new experience having affected them in any way! It is no wonder that when time and resources is spent on people and there is no corresponding change at the end of it, we begin to wonder what happened.

This realisation should make us more conscious of who is learning what where and from whom. Individuals and organisations should be careful what they are investing in their children and staff and ensure that it is worthwhile and will deliver the desired behaviours. It is also an opportunity to understand what type of learning motivates that person. It is not always the academic route, and then the practical or technical route that yields the results. We must be open to the possibility that the learning process can be overturned and start at the practical before we introduce the conceptual.

It is a worthwhile point to think about some of the problems facing societies vis a viz employment and growth. Modern societies are trying to mimic the European models of economic and technological development. This has not been entirely successful. Where our nascent economies have tried to produce many candidates for white collar jobs, the economy has been unable to absorb them all. The results are that the supply far outstrips demand. Unfortunately, the system has been unable to switch off this supply of white collar candidates and the problem has been growing bigger and bigger. The economy perhaps needs more people who must make things that people need to make their daily lives better. Things like food, equipment, refrigerators, computers and motor vehicles and wheelbarrows.

Unfortunately, this simple technology does not exist in our learning. The white-collar learning talks of international, intra national and inter regional trading. This will only succeed if everyone else in these areas is doing different complimentary things. The story however is that inter regionally or intra regionally, people are doing the same things. So those that are successful are the ones doing different things.

In conclusion, if learning is not changing our behaviours and we keep doing the same things repeatedly then we are not learning or what we are doing is not learning! Learning must be purposeful, it must motivate us to change our behaviours to impact our surroundings, preferably for the better. A changing society is a sum total of all the learning that people are undertaking. More importantly, the learning must be diverse so that in total, the impact is wholesome. It is not possible that in a society everyone is learning the same things in the same way. The implications here is that we have to be open to new perspectives from others so that our own learning can be interrogated. Once we infuse others’ learning even if it’s on the same subject, we should have a better and deeper understanding of the subject.

Where does learning come from?  From reading materials, listening to the radio and television. These days there are numerous other sources of mediums that feed us with new information and peoples other experiences almost in real time. The willingness to listen to and from others in daily discourse. Another important source of new learning is from reflection on self. All that we know already can be re examined and recast to make new learning for self and others. Changing circumstances brings new meaning to old information that we have stored away in our subconscious. It is therefore that we actively review our beliefs and values and bring them up to speed with current circumstances so that they work better for us. This is what I can call purposeful learning. Learning that makes us better at the way we interact, communicate and understand others. Learning that takes our relationships to the proverbial ‘next level’.

What is happening around our various societies in the world is hardly evidence of purposeful, motivational  learning.

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