To learn I have to feel uncomfortable

Some of us think we love to learn, but doesn’t it mean that we like hearing new things that we didn’t know before?

Learning can be hard, because we learn more if we are outside our comfort zone. And most of the ways we’re accustomed to “learning” (i.e. in a classroom setting, with one person talking and us (the students) either listening intently or half listening and day dreaming about all the other things we could be doing now) are well within our comfort zone.

In the boardroom, a classroom, a seminar or a webinar setting – how often are you really challenged? Maybe when you’re called upon by the ‘teacher’ to answer a question you really would prefer not to? Still it’s hardly something you could say it is far outside your comfort zone?

Classroom learning

So some trainers or teachers, and I am definitely one of them, try to keep the room energised and ‘learning’ with exercises, group work and demonstrations/ practice sessions. Some people gain new skills this way, but it’s still not exactly challenging us outside of our comfort zone. Unless our head hurts at the end, if we’ve been forced to think in a way we haven’t done before, this is a sign of growth. It’s like when you go on a trampoline as an adult for 10 minutes and your legs ache for days afterwards because your body hasn’t used those muscles in years.

Challenged to learn

I’m starting to understand that the only way to learn for me, is to go through some mental or physical pain and transformation. I can gain new information but I don’t learn unless there is some kind of shift. And those shifts happen through experience – lived, engineered, on the job, forced into – often when I am uncomfortable and it’s outside of my expectations.

We may be a little more challenged by ‘on the job’ training. We may be given a task or role that is new and uncomfortable for us, a worthy challenge. But we still have lots of avenues of support, some resources to draw on, but it is more challenging than sitting in a classroom listening to someone else talk most of the time.

A new way of teaching

So I’m trying to take this new knowledge and acknowledge that I actually don’t love ‘learning’ as much as I thought I did. I’m starting to understand that I’ve been trying to teach people about Digital and they’re listening to me – they’re practising and implementing their new skills. But my experience about my own way of learning made me think if I need to challenge them more. Get them outside of their comfort zone, without scaring them off.

It’s ok not to meet expectations

It’s hard to find a way to teach digital marketing and fundraising in a way that breaks people out of their comfort zone. It will be hard to deliver training that doesn’t meet people’s expectations – but that will ensure that students really learn – rather than hear. Where they will sometimes leave thinking that was weird or ‘not normal’ and not what they were expecting.

I hope that they at least feel that they were challenged, that it was a different approach. That while it doesn’t meet their expectations, they left having actually learnt something new.