In these days of digital training accessible at the touch of a button, learning new things is easy to do. But how can you make sure you turn theory into practice, and really begin to apply and integrate your new skills into your life?
As a providers of an ICF-accredited certifications for for Women’s Coaches and having led thousands of women through trainings ranging from virtual workshops to year-long leadership intensives, we’ve learned a thing or two about helping women turn theory into practice!
Here are 5 keys to making new learning stick:
#1 Embody what you’re learning
It’s easy to read and absorb vast quantities of information. But applying that in a real life situation – for example, a conversation with a prospective client, high pressure meeting, or friend asking you what you’ve been learning – is another story.
When you’re looking for training, pay close attention to the opportunities you’re given to actually practice your skill.
- Will you get the chance to be observed and receive expert feedback on how you’re performing?
- Do you have the chance to move around, or use different forms of learning?
- Do you know what it will feel like when you’re putting what you’ve learned into practice?
These could make all the difference between gaining an interesting conversation starter, and creating real change.
If it isn’t already included, set yourself a challenge to experience your new skill in as many different ways as possible: such as through movement, art, audio. Explain it to a friend or mime it to your dog!
#2 Ask yourself “why?”
We talk a lot about the nuts and bolts of motivation (here, here and here) for example, and it’s for a good reason. You’re far more likely to make the extra effort needed to change if you’re working towards something you feel passionate about, inspired by, and excited to achieve.
Are you investing in a training just to stop you feeling left behind, or because you hate your job or feel inadequate? Try looking again at your motivation.
What positive goal are you moving towards – making more of a difference, having job flexibility, being part of a new community? Let that inspire you to keep going.
#3 Find your community
Our coach certification cohorts form incredibly close bonds. As well as their shares and celebrations in the private Facebook group we see lots of spontaneous opportunities for connection springing up – virtual (or in person) coffee dates and meetups. It seems that women understand instinctively that connecting with each other is the fastest (and most enjoyable) way to succeed.
Think back to times you’ve been on a training that really changed your life. The people who were with you no doubt played a huge part in how well you were able to stick with the trials and challenges of mastering a new skill.
Since we know how key this connection is, we assign every coach a “buddy” to partner with them.
Lifelong friendship shave been made in this way! And we have no doubt this is a BIG contributor to the success of the program.
So when you’re embarking on a new training, find a buddy. Connect with your community. And be sure to celebrate your ups and downs together.
#4 Be ready to stumble
Learning something new is a vulnerable process. If you’re someone who struggles with failing, and is used to being a “safe pair of hands”, it can be a disorienting experience to find yourself stumbling.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Jennifer Long summed up this challenge beautifully:
As leaders, we generally have the intellectual capacity to quickly grasp concepts and ideas, which can lead us to mistakenly believe we also know how to execute on them right away. The reality is that we don’t – not until we practice, get feedback, refine our approach, and practice again – for somewhere between 20 and 10,000 hours. This is hard to do. Learning something new means being clumsy at it initially, making mistakes, course-correcting, and trying again. It’s uncomfortable. And even when we know the skill is valuable, it often makes our work more difficult at first, causing many leaders to stop trying new things and revert to old habits. – Jennifer Long
Remember that failure and mis-steps are part of the learning process. How can you be kind to yourself and celebrate your mistakes as evidence of growth??
#5 Practice, practice, practice
Before you embark on a new training or course, ask yourself how you’re going to apply what you’ve learned.
You might need to find some mates who are willing to have you test out what you’re learning. Or perhaps you just want to make a personal commitment to keep practising what you’ve learned after the training has ended. Maybe you could share your progress on social media, or with your family.
Our newbie coaches leave their training with a 12-week program they can use with clients, so they’re confident in their ability to lead a client through a transformational journey and see results at the end of it. That kind of structure you’re able to personalise and adapt is really helpful as you find your feet, especially if you’re learning a skill you’d like to use with paying clients.
Make a plan for how you’ll implement your new skill after you’ve finished learning it. How will you mark your progress, and what milestones will let you know you’re on the right track?
What would you add?
What’s helped you make change stick in the past? How do you make sure you apply learning, and see the results in your life? Leave us a comment, let us know!
Want to learn a new skill you can use right away?
Join us for Essential Skills for Coaching Women, a coaching skills workshop happening on 7 December. You’ll discover practical ways you can help others to make change stick AND use in your own life.
Registration is free and if you can’t make it live, we’ll send you the replay.
Our intention is simple. To support professional women to handle the day-to-day so they can unleash the bigger impact they feel called to make in the world.
We believe real leadership is less about skill, and more about having a well of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual strength to draw on. Every week we support thousands of grassroots leaders globally with our free articles, videos and online trainings with powerful tools and methodologies created BY women FOR women.
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