Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.
There are many ways to learn. I think a balanced approach using multiple strategies is best. I love to read, but reading is a passive activity and is only one way to learn. You could read some excellent books on public speaking, but it would not be as beneficial as joining Toastmasters and practicing.
There is nothing as real and transforming as doing the actual experience. Participation and practicing what you want to master is probably the most effective. Michael Jordan didn’t become a star and arguably the greatest ever to play the game of basketball by reading books on basketball.
Don’t limit yourself by allowing reading to be the your only method of learning. That approach creates a lot of highly intelligent but underperforming people. They fail to go from insight to action. They think and anticipate but never leave the sidelines. Reading should be one component in an integrated approach.
Another effective strategy for learning is modeling, a process in which we copy or duplicate someone’s behavior and belief systems in order to achieve the same results. It’s a powerful way to accelerate the learning process when compared to the traditional trial and error method of learning. We can model those behaviors of people who have had success in areas that we wish to emulate.
My wife is my role model in so many ways; she leads an incredibly full life and accomplishes so much. I have always battled procrastination and had a tendency to “skate through life” and do only what was necessary to get by. Unfortunately my belief when I was in school was that anything over a “C” was overkill. I had programmed myself for mediocrity.
Kathy’s approach seemed so much more fulfilling and joyous. I wanted to learn how to add more zest and joy to life. I started observing and modeling her behavior. The first step was to gain an understanding of her belief system, which is the underpinning of her fulfilling life. Obviously these were empowering beliefs for Kathy and I believed they would also be beneficial for me. Kathy believes:
- YOU SHOULD BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE
- LIFE IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL – We only get one opportunity and we need to make the most of it. Live every day and make every moment count.
- TIME IS NOT A RENEWABLE COMMODITY – Financial losses can be recouped, but time poorly spent and wasted is gone forever.
I began to observe her behavior in detail and I identified patterns that are supportive and consistent with her belief systems.
Kathy jumps up (no contemplation or turning over for another 15 minutes in bed) at 5:30 every morning. She makes a pot of coffee the night before and sets the coffee pot timer so that she is greeted with the aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee when she enters the kitchen.
This leaping out of bed stuff felt unnatural to me, so I gave myself a little out, a little wriggle room. I told myself that I could always go back to bed if I chose to. I very seldom exercise that option.
Kathy never procrastinates. If a decision needs to be made, she makes it. If something needs to be done, she does it. I was the type that would con myself into saying I’ll play in the morning and do those chores in the afternoon (mow the grass, put up the screens etc.). Then when afternoon came, I would invariably want to play more and put off the chores until the next day.
Procrastination is such an energy drainer. Although you might be putting off the actual chore, you add one more item to your mental list of unfinished things that need to be done and this list is always in your consciousness, diverting your thoughts and eroding your energy. The lower your rate of procrastination, the higher your level of energy.
Kathy falls into a deep sleep within 5 minutes after going to bed. I was really envious of this. I sleep poorly and never fall immediately asleep. Kathy has learned to power down just like a computer being turn off. How does Kathy do this?
- TAKES A WARM BATH BEFORE GOING TO BED
- DOES LIGHT READING BEFORE TAKING THE BATH
- WILL NOT DISCUSS HEAVY ISSUES LATE AT NIGHT
Kathy rewards herself for good performance and completed tasks. Kathy does a lot of public speaking and when she gives a particularly good speech, she rewards herself with a bubble bath and allows herself to be rubbed down (that’s my job) with Vita Spa lotion. (After average speeches she just gets an ordinary lotion.)
Being a librarian, she loves to read and after completing various tasks (e.g., 2 hours data entry of the computer), she allows herself to read for 1/2 hour.
Kathy is never without her personal planner/organizer and all scheduling and plans are logged in. Once you learn to write everything down, energy is no longer wasted trying to remember details. The use of a planner is essential for the busy person. It frees up your mind for other more productive and creative types of thinking.
Kathy searches for ways to be more productive and eliminate “time wasters.” We upgraded our computer system to reduce the time required for software to be loaded and ready for use. All trips up and down the stairs to our apartment are multi-purpose. No special trips just to take out the garbage. Kathy has no mercy or compassion for phone solicitors – it’s an abrupt “No thank you I’m not interested” and on to another task. Kathy plans ahead and anticipates how the day will unfold. She loves to read and carries a book with her during her daily excursions and reads as time and circumstances permits (e.g., while having her hair styled at the beauty salon or waiting in the doctor’s office for her appointment.)
She is a generous person and gives many gifts and remembers special occasions with cards; she has a list of special occasions and relationships that have to be honored. She buys, files and inventories special occasion cards for future use and will buy that “perfect gift” for someone way in advance of the occasion.
We all should be aware of the importance of regular exercise and good nutrition in our lives. A third, not as well known requirement for healthy living is proper breathing. Kathy energizes herself by taking deep breaths throughout the day. Yoga and other forms of meditation affirm the importance of deep breathing exercises.
Kathy honors her commitment to excellence by being a selective and discriminating book reader and moviegoer. She checks book and movie reviews and isn’t seduced by the commercial hype that often convinces us to participate in activities that don’t live up to their billing.
When you are modeling someone’s behavior, the more you observe the better you emulate. I will never be as disciplined as Kathy, but my detailed observation of her daily living patterns has given me excellent insights and new strategies for living a fuller, more productive life.
Accelerated learning by modeling can be applied to any process that you wish to improve: negotiating skills, healthy life-style practices, weight management, risk taking, social skills, learning and planning skills, money management skills, etc.
In my DARE TO DATE class, I encourage students to closely observe and model the behavior of those with good social skills and success with the opposite sex. This was a list of observable behaviors that I compiled for people who want better success in dating and their social life:
- How do they dress?
- How do they greet strangers?
- What is their vocabulary when talking to strangers and the opposite sex?
- When and how do they smile?
- What is their body language? (If you don’t look approachable, you won’t be approached).
- How do they handle criticism?
- Where do they approach the opposite sex?
- What does their voice sound like?
- How do they walk?
- What does their posture tell you?
When I talk to groups in business setting, I always stress how important it is to model success and give a couple examples that can be practiced by everyone:
- Observe how successful people dress and the image they project. Your wardrobe doesn’t have to be expensive. Pay attention to the little but critical details (shoes shined, timely hair cut, clean fingernails, etc.)
- Observe how the successful person shakes hands (firm grasp and looks you in the eye).
- Watch how successful people conduct themselves in seminars. (Often sits near the front and always participates by asking questions.)
Modeling is a learning technique that can enhance any component of your life.