What Is Your Learning Process: Shelf Development or Self-Development?

Are you over-consuming or taking a “greener”, more organic approach to your language learning?

I haven’t counted the books in the above bookshelf but the total figure probably equals the number of books I’ve read over the last 5 years. In the past 12 months, I’ve greatly reduced my consumption but it took me a while.

Why did I read that much over a 4-year span?

Believe it or not, I was intent on reading what other people thought about what I should be doing in my business.

And if you’re a Business Leader of any kind, I’m guessing that you’ve probably done the same thing.

Yes, I was a serial “book binger”. As soon as I finished one book, I was on to the next. No time to digest what I’d learned, my appetite for more was too strong. I was intent on banishing those feelings of “I can’t possibly do that until I’ve read X, Y or Z”.

Ever had that feeling?

That feeling of “not good enough”

When I started my business over 5 years ago, I arrived in the land of entrepreneurship with some shiny new diplomas, bright hopes and lots of naivety.

I even remember expecting the phone to ring as soon as I pressed publish on my website.

Well, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that a long queue of clients didn’t immediately appear at my door, clamoring for a coaching session.

I had clients of course. But I wanted more. So I made the mistake of turning my gaze outward, to what everyone else out there was thinking and proposing.

And of course, I got lost down the rabbit hole of comparison. The feeling of “less than” was born.

Trying to get more so that we can be more

When we don’t feel “good enough”, the only solution seems to be to develop ourselves, to have more information so that we can be more than we are now. To become more resilient, more creative and more efficient so that we can cope better. More is our motto, our protective shield.

So we buy books and online courses. Anywhere we can find more knowledge. And then some more.

Rather than trusting ourselves, we look outside to other people’s advice and answers.

Finding time to reflect and think for ourselves seems too hard. Our time is spent reading about strategies and solutions that other people have created for us to solve our problem. Because those other people must already know. After all, they’ve written a book/course about it.

I regularly needed my information fix. That instant gratification (which of course never lasted).

Which explains all the books.

And then one day, two questions came to me:

  1. Where is all the learning leading to?
  2. Why would other people have my answers?

Where is all the learning leading to?

The trouble is that all the learning and busyness we get lost in counts for nothing if we’re not creating something with our own voice at the end of it.

Which, if you’re a compulsive reader like I was, is not necessarily what you’re doing. You’re just “surface learning”, swiftly moving from one book to the next, waiting for some unknown hidden treasure that will make you feel special.

But that special feeling isn’t to be found in those uniform blueprints and X-step plans.

It’s like we’re trying on someone else’s made-to-measure outfit and wondering why it doesn’t suit us.

What happens when we look inside

Society encourages us to look outside. The general message is that we need to get things so that we can be more. In other words, buy and consume again and again. And we do this in many areas of our lives, including our learning.

  • What if we decided to do the opposite?
  • What if we slowed down and pressed the pause button?
  • What if we decided that we were enough?
  • What if we took the time to reconnect with ourselves? With our answers? The ones that already fit us perfectly.

That’s what I call ecological learning. Because it’s organic and sustainable.

Remember your inner power & wellbeing

True confidence is about liking and feeling good about who you are. We lose this confidence when we try to be someone we’re not.

“We are all meant to shine as children do. As we let our own light shine, we give others permission to do the same.” Marianne Williamson

Think back to childhood. You were born brimming with confidence. You never doubted that you would be able to speak, walk, dance, ride a bike, build a lego house…. Joie de vivre was your playmate. You didn’t worry about the past or the future. You just lived life to the full.

Well, that innate wellbeing hasn’t vanished, it’s still inside of us, we just forget it’s there underneath all the varnish and polish we’ve carefully applied over the years.

I realized at the time that if I wanted to get back to that space, I needed to stop adding and start subtracting. To focus on less, not more. Less stress, less action.

The only thing I needed more of was real presence. Being fully present in my daily life, in my language learning, not lost in a book.

There’s nothing wrong with reading a book. It can be a rewarding hobby. But we need to know why we’re doing it.

It’s more important to look and listen inside, not out. And we can do this in our language learning.

Imagine if we connected first with that space inside of us where we are already whole and ok and then made our decisions from there?

When we no longer use/need our business or learning to feel good enough or worthy about ourselves because we are that already, the pressure is off. It becomes a whole lot more fun. We can enjoy the process and don’t have to “get somewhere” today.

Instead of frantically rushing from one non-essential to another, our daily steps are more inspired.

So, let’s finish with 3 questions:

  • Where is your (language) learning leading? If it’s nowhere, you need a new approach.
  • How are you learning? If you’re overconsuming, you need a greener, healthier process.
  • Are you waiting for a better time to start? Maybe there was never a better time than now…



Article updated from an article I published on Medium in Apr 20

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