Four Habits to Keep You Learning and Growing

We’ve all heard the cliché before, “If your business is not growing, it’s dying.” I couldn’t agree more, but I’d like to make the statement a little more personal. “If you are not growing, your business is dying.” After all, the success of your business, practice or SBU is all up to you – your ability to identify reality and then lead your company in a dynamic, competitive, changing business environment. And you can only increase this ability through growth.

Such growth, I contend, is intellectual and is a lifelong learning process. Learning more about people, learning more about strategic and tactical alternatives, learning more about what others are doing to achieve success requires discovering new and different information and then “letting it in.” However, the process of intellectual learning really isn’t all that heady. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a Harvard MBA. What you do need is the desire to continually grow, supported by a few lifelong learning habits.

I can’t address the desire factor – either you have it or you don’t. However, four lifelong learning practices when developed into habits will keep you learning and will greatly increase your chances of continued success.

1. Openness.

This is a willingness to view life and business with an open mind – being receptive to new ideas and arguments even when they don’t feel right. Practice this habit by looking for both facts and feelings of others before deciding yours are right. Hold your fire and look for more information. Avoid generalizing and commit to being free of prejudice.

2. Risk Taking.

This is a willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone – taking action that you have not taken before and being willing to accept a certain degree of failure. Practice this habit by actively looking for opportunities to experiment with life and business challenges. Look for alternatives with bigger paybacks, and view failure as a learning experience.

3. Feedback.

This is the willingness to solicit and listen to others’ opinions and feedback. It involves understanding the perspective from which facts and feelings come as much as the facts and feelings themselves. It also requires aggressively getting information from others. Practice this habit by selecting several key associates or colleagues who you respect for their candor and regularly solicit their feedback on your important life and business issues. Ask them to be brutally truthful with their feedback and don’t defend, just listen.

4. Self-assessment.

This is the willingness to look objectively at both your successes and failures. Develop criteria and benchmarks for those issues and challenges you believe to be most important, so you can honestly assess your results. Some results are more difficult to measure than others, but without objective measures you really can’t make any assessment. Practice this habit by deciding what’s most important to you, setting short-term goals or milestones for achievement, developing realistic measures of that achievement, and reviewing results frequently. Be brutally honest with yourself.

Again, lifelong learning requires a desire to grow and a belief that growth will help you achieve success and fulfillment. The best way to support continued growth is to develop learning practices and, ultimately, habits that will serve you well for a lifetime.