Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Learning to Learn – Again

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~Alvin Toffler

As summer 2012 comes to an end, we are bombarded with back to school messages. This year, Canadian shoppers are expected to spend 13%more than they did last year on everything from pencils and erasers to laptop computers and sneakers. It isn’t just our youth, however, that are returning to school. Adults are also headed back to the classroom; an upward trend expected to continue over the next several years.

For some adults, a return to school – whether to earn a certificate, diploma, or degree – can be as stressful as that first day of Kindergarten. A lot may have changed since the last time they were in a classroom and learning while juggling work and family responsibilities can add to already busy and stress-filled lives. 10Tips to Fit Professional Development Into a Busy Life offers some easy-to-implement solutions when adding the role of student.

As you think about your learning goals for this fall, an important first step may be learning about how you learn. Your learning style may impact the type of educational choices you make (e.g., as a solitary learner a busy classroom may not be the best choice). Uncertain of your learning style? Learning Styles Online offers a great, and brief, summary of the 7 learning styles and a learning styles questionnaire.

Keep in mind that learning doesn’t have to involve a return to formal education or the completion of a degree program. Reading a book, listening to a recorded lecture, or attending a webinar are great ways to start, or re-start, your professional development journey.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Differences Create Strength

Whether you’re about to go into an interview, start a new class, or travel to a new place in the world you’ve never been before, stepping into a different, unknown environment can be challenging. We do everything we can to prepare.

Most people will read up on questions they might be asked in the interview, research the company, find out who will be interviewing and maybe even talk to their network and see who knows who within the company to get the “real” scoop.

When we travel, most of us will do some research, buy a Lonely Planet, book our hotel rooms, maybe even learn some of the language and local customs.

We are always preparing ourselves to enter into a new situation to feel more ease and safety. After all, we hate to stick out like a sore thumb right? But what might happen if you didn’t prepare so much. What might happen if you walked into those situations with a completely open mind, no real context other than what you know already and the eagerness to observe, learn, question, being ready to participate, and be of service?

Now depending on the circumstance it might not be the best thing in the world, but walking into a new situation with some vulnerability might surprise you, and the diversity it might bring into your life might change your world. After all some of the most fascinating experiences in life aren’t when we are prepared. It’s when we enter into a situation or circumstance that brings other views, ideas, and ways of life together enhancing our own beliefs and values.

In 2008 I brought together a group of 12 young women from various geographical locations within the area, socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, sexual orientations, and lifestyles. It was completely unintended that we would get such a diverse group.

I did not give them context of who would be coming or what all the workshops would be. When they joined the group they only new that I would be instructing a leadership program that would help them be more confident and they would be giving back to community.

The 9 young women who completed the program will tell you that it was challenging sitting in a room with each other at times. They will tell you that had the group been in school or out in the community they would not have even talked to each other.

As we worked through the series of workshops, they judged each other, questioned each other’s life choices, and at times were offended by one another.

Yet with the concept of open mindedness, vulnerability, an eagerness to learn, teaching the idea of open questioning in a respectful fashion, and a willingness to participate, they will now tell you that they are friends. They will tell you that they changed for the better, are far stronger, and have more confidence than before. And they will tell you, that not knowing exactly what they were walking into and being open to possibilities has greatly added to their vision for the future.

I challenge people constantly not to go into every situation thinking about what they know because they lose the possibility of building something within themselves that they may have never thought about before.

Loretta Cella is an International Facilitator, Advocate, and Life Enhancement Coach who has spent the last 11 years dedicated to the empowerment of individuals, families, and communities. Having worked with diverse individuals and groups in Canada, New Delhi, Kenya and Uganda, Loretta has developed a deep appreciation and passion for diversity and connecting the human spirit to purposeful action. Loretta holds her Child and Youth Care Counselling certificate, CCDP, and is currently working toward her Masters at Royal Roads University. You can connect with her at www.lorettacella.com and www.passionfoundation.org.