Today many in our part of the world agree that personal development is important and that we live in a time where we must be adaptive and open to change. This is quite easy to acknowledge -- as long as it does not apply to ourselves.
In our endeavors we meet many executives who have a constant focus on the organization's ability to change, and thus drive change through both departments and employees, but they haven't given one single though to their own ability to develop and change -- as leaders. Change and personal development is mandatory, as long as it concerns "other people."
The denominator for positive change is growth. Growth is the essence of life, and something we all are dependent upon. Without growth and personal development we would still be crawling around on the floor behaving like babies. This is easy to understand, but the important thing is why this attitude towards change and growth decline with age? When we hit a certain age, we often forget that we still need to learn new stuff, or fight challenges that still are there. We discussed this with a friend of us who is an expert on human behavior. He said that when people hit their 40s, we start to preserve ourselves.
Until then we are usually ambitious on our own behalf, we are still developing, still learning, still growing. When we hit 40 -- something things are changing. We start to accept things as they are, and stop challenging status quo. We even start communicating our shortcomings to our self or others; "...you see, I have never been any good with numbers", "ohh... swimming isn't something for me", "yes, I can't help it -- I just can't stand olives" (or whatever).
Whether you are below or above the age 40, this should concern you. The only person who can do anything with this attitude with regard to yourself is -- you! You are the one who can decide that you should learn a new sport once in a while, travel somewhere you have not been before, or learn how to cook (or whatever).
This is both important and interesting also in your professional life. Are there things you do not master that you know would make the day easier for you? Find a way to learn it, and keep on using it until it is no longer a challenge. And as for the executives mentioned above -- leadership is one of the disciplines that are changing most these days, so if you want to stay on top of the game, it might be time to plan some serious leadership development. Just sayin.'
We know this from personal experience -- after holding a leadership position for a few years it is extremely easy to just keep on leading in the same way as we always have. In a hectic world it is far too easy to rely on your experience, rather than stop and ask yourself if this is the best way of doing it. Not to mention asking others what they think. The unfortunate reality is that without constant personal and professional development, you might one day find yourself obsolete from leadership positions.
It might be a coincident, and it might be without any correlation, but according to PayScale and their thorough salary analysis, pay growth stops -- at 40! The study is conducted among people with at least a Bachelor's degree, and is relevant to almost any occupation. We do not have data supporting the correlation between this and the fact that we tend to stop personal growth at 40, but at least we would suggest that to make life richer you should focus on learning new stuff when the pay growth is leveling out.
Here are a few tips that can get you going:
- If you ever catch yourself thinking: "That's typical me -- I do not know how to... (fill in the blank)". Stop it. You are right, you might not know how to do this now, but maybe next year. Consider if this is something you want to master or not. Or if you maybe just use it as an excuse not to do something ("No, I am not a diver... others can do that.")
- Sign up for a course in... anything. We started wave-surfing (no talent, for sure), wind-surfing (fun for speed junkies), climbing (took too much time), tango (hard to master, but cool to try), Italian (ciao amigo), wine-tasting, html-coding, free-ride skiing. All of it is possible and quite fun. Not to mention all the great people you meet.
- Make sure you constantly update your leadership skills; through books, courses, seminars or other methods. Now you can even become a better leader through online courses.
- Be curious. And courageous. And know that the magic often is happening outside your comfort zone. Ask yourself; what is the worst that can happen? ...and go from there
What kind of new things have you learned the last year? And what can get you going if you just stopped learning new things? Please share -- that makes us all wiser!