This week I've been exploring using positive questioning strategies to drive professional development. Previous posts included:
- Professional Development from Inspiration, Not Desperation
- Positive Questions for Professional Development: Setting the Stage
- Positive Questions for Professional Development: Creating a Learning Vision
- Strategies for Exploring Positive Questions for Professional Development
In today's post, I want to explore ways to translate insights into action. How do you move from creating a vision for inspired learning into enacting that vision? There are a few things we can do that I'll describe in greater detail below.
Action, Not Activity
Before getting into specific strategies, I want to go back to my post last week on action vs. activity. As I discussed then, action is something that is inspired by a deeper strategic vision for what we want, while activity is action with no real connection to purpose or goals.
As we look at ways to move from the insights we gained in exploring positive professional development questions, we want to make sure that the steps we take to enact this vision are tied strategically to what it is we're trying to create. We want to keep asking ourselves, how will this action take me closer to the learning vision I've created for myself? If it doesn't do that, then I should reconsider the activity because it won't be connected to real inspired learning.
As we look at how to enact in our professional lives a more positive approach to professional development, I think it's useful to consider changing our habits, rather than trying to enact some full-scale "Learning Plan." Reality is, when we treat learning as an event, something we pay attention to only once in awhile, we are much less likely to achieve our professional goals. We need to see learning as a habit--like exercising or making good food choices--that can lead us to a healthier professional life. Lasting change often happens incrementally, not in one fell swoop. So, how do we instill in ourselves the small habits of learning that will inspire us and keep us fresh?
Moving from Insight to Action
This exercise is adapted from an activity in Appreciative Living, an excellent primer on how to use appreciative inquiry practices in your life. It focuses on enacting small, but significant changes in habits that bring you closer to your vision without you having to make major overhauls. It's like changing one eating habit at a time, rather than going on a full-scale diet.
Start by going back to the insights you gained in responding to the questions about developing a positive learning environment for yourself and creating a vision for what you want to learn. Answer this question:
As I step back and reflect on what I really want and where I am today, what do I see as one of the most significant changes I could make that would help me to get to what I want? What ONE change would have the greatest impact in helping me achieve what I really desire here?
Once you've achieved some clarity, then ask yourself:
What one small change could I make now, no matter how small, that would align with this high impact change? What could I do today that would get me a step closer to this larger vision I want to create?
When you've identified this change, then take that step. See what happens. Modify what you're doing as appropriate. Use these questions to identify new steps you could take to keep moving forward.
Some Small Steps You Can Take
Here are a few "learning habits" you might want to try. Let me suggest that you only pick one or two at a time to see how you can incorporate them into your life, how well they work for you, etc. Once they become ingrained as habits, then look at adding something else when you're ready for a new challenge or to change things up a bit.
- The One Sentence Journal--This is a small, easy habit to incorporate into your daily life. Each day, at a regular time, write one sentence that is tied to your learning vision. It could be something you learned that day or a question that came up for you or something you want to try out. You'll find more in this post. You may want to consider signing up for Oh Life for this practice. It's an email-based journaling option that will remind you daily about posting with the added bonus of including a random entry you've posted previously.
- 20 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Sunday--This is a great list of questions that you can adapt for enacting your professional development plan. Take 30 minutes at the beginning of the week to work your way through some or all of these and see what impact it has on your learning.
- 60 Small Ways to Improve Your Life in the Next 100 Days--Scroll down this list to items 8-13 in the Learning/Personal Development section. There are some great ideas for small changes you can make. I particularly like the idea of setting your alarm 1 minute earlier each day, so that by the end of the 100 days, you're getting up an hour and 40 minutes earlier, thus giving yourself a nice chunk of "me" time for learning.
- Keep a Reflective Diary--Try using this reflective diary toolkit to begin learning from your work experiences.
- Debrief Yourself--Take a look at some of these questions and see how you might use them to reflect on various professional and learning experiences on a regular basis.
- Set up Personal Learning Experiments--In your learning vision, you've identified some topics that interest you. How could you experiment with learning more about those topics? Maybe you want to play around with one of these Blogging for Learning activities.
- Most Significant Change Stories--what if you started collecting these as they relate to your professional development?
- Incorporate Reflective Practice--On one level, learning is a continuous cycle of "act/reflect." Many of us have the "act" part down pretty well, but don't always take the time for reflection. This post includes a link to a great 4-pager on reflective practice. You may also want to check out this post on incorporating reflective practices into the organization.
- Connect with Like-Minded Peers--One of the best ways to learn is with the support of others. Although there can be obvious value in connecting to people within your industry or occupation, I actually think that some of the greatest growth comes simply from connecting to people who also want to become more adept at learning. You don't have to be around people who want to learn about the same things, necessarily. You just need to be connected to people who love to learn. It's much more fun with a buddy. And you may find that people from different walks of life who share your love of learning can offer you new perspectives and ideas to learn from as well.
- 52 Free Development Opportunities for Nonprofit Staff--check out this list, whether or not you work at a nonprofit. How could you incorporate some of these into your Positive PD Toolkit?
Some Final Words
So what are some of the take-aways from this week that I hope you get?
- Learning should come from inspiration, not desperation. Finding ways to inspire your learning, rather than to goad yourself into it will always be more effective.
- Positive questions can take us in new directions in our professional development. They can ignite our passions and interest and give great energy to our professional development process.
- Learning is a habit--we have to look for ways to build it into our lives so that we become the learners we want to be. Focusing on events and "big plans," can be a recipe for failure. Like losing weight, learning is really about finding the habits that work for us to inspire our learning and keep us learning for the long haul.
- Focus on creating a learning lifestyle. What we're really talking about here is creating for ourselves a learning lifestyle, incorporating into our lives healthy learning habits. We are trying to become learners, not simply participating in learning activities. It's the difference between being a healthy person and a yo-yo dieter. A healthy person has developed small healthy habits for living, making choices in food, exercise, etc. that support his/her vision of the self as a healthy person. A yo-yo dieter is someone who eats well and exercises only to gain the short term advantage of losing a few pounds. When that goal is reached, slowly the old habits creep back in and the dieter finds that more weight has been gained and the cycle starts all over again. We don't want to be "yo-yo learners." We want to be healthy learners.
So what are your thoughts on this post and the rest of the week? Has this series provoked your thinking on professional development? Would love to hear more!