Professional Development from Inspiration, Not Desperation
Positive Questions for Professional Development: Developing a Vision for Learning

Positive Questions for Professional Development: Setting the Stage

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This week I'm exploring how positive questions might transform our approaches to professional development.

Originally I was going to start by playing with some questions about what to learn, but in thinking about the whole issue of professional development, it occurs to me how many of us may need help in setting up for ourselves a more positive environment around taking control of our own learning, especially when we work for someone else. Even those of us who are self-employed may find that we need some positive questions to get us motivated to create a more effective learning environment for ourselves. So here goes. . . 

Acting from Inspiration, Not Desperation

In exploring positive questions, one of the key points for me is the idea that it is better to act from inspiration, not desperation. That's what the brain research tells us and that's certainly been my experience as well.

Learning from desperation means that we feel like we HAVE to learn. Maybe our boss told us we needed to attend a training. Or we are worried that if our skills become outdated we'll be laid off. Or maybe we've already been laid off and now we're trying to play catch-up.  Desperate learners are coming from a place of fear and anxiety. That "fight or flight" mode is antithetical to learning. 

Sometimes desperation goes on too long. Then we move into a place of de-motivation, where we are no longer in touch with anything that we enjoy about learning or about our jobs. We may not feel anxious or worried at this point. Instead, we don't even really care. Learning is something that is done TO us, not something we do for ourselves. 

When we are inspired learners, we are learning from a place of excitement and passion. We WANT to learn and are excited to develop ourselves and our new skills. We see how our learning is connected to our own long-range vision and the things that get us pumped up about our work. And we see learning as something that we need to do for our own growth if we are to achieve the vision we've set for ourselves. 

Priming the Pump

The question of course is how to create that inspiration? Some of the questions I have below came from the awesome Encyclopedia of Positive Questions. In several cases I've also built on those inital questions. 

In thinking about these, it's important to try to be as detailed as possible in responding to them. I've found that the more detail I'm able to add, the more fodder I have for inspiration. You may find that you want to answer all of the questions or pick and choose, based on your personal experience. 

It also helps if you talk about your answers to these questions with another person. Have them listen to your story and then share with you some of the themes they may have heard. This can be a really powerful way to get at inspiration.

These are some questions that have helped me and have worked with others. Note that each begins with asking you to think about a specific situation in the past that can prime the pump:

  • Think about the most exciting and challenging professional development/learning experience you've ever had. What was it? What did you do? What happened? Who was involved? What made it interesting and challenging? How did it benefit you? How did it benefit others, including your employer? What can you learn from this experience about what you want MORE of in your professional development? 
  • Think about the BEST learning experience you've ever had--a time when you felt like you were in a great learning environment that supported your growth and development. Describe the experience and environment in as much detail as you can? When/where was it? Who was involved? What did you do? What made that experience so exceptional? What does it tell you about what you want more of? 
  • Think of an organization you worked at or another kind of learning environment that inspired you to learn. What made this such a great place for learning? How did you and others grow and change as a result of being in this environment? How could you bring some of these ideas or conditions into your current situation? 
  • Think about a learning experience where you felt competent and capable and where your learning just seemed to flow. What happened in that experience? Who was involved? What were you learning? What helped you feel competent and capable? What can you learn from that experience about the kinds of things you need in a learning environment? How could you bring some of these ideas into your current situation? 
  • What would my learning look like if it came from a place of inspiration, not desperation? How would I learn? Who would be involved/ What would I learn? How would I know that I was engaging in "inspired learning"?

These are just a few to get you started. Let me know what you think, if you have other suggestions for questions and how these work for you. I'm also curious about your thoughts on how organizations might be able to use some of these questions to create a more positive environment for ongoing professional development.

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