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Five Questions to Maximize Your Learning

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“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin

Many of us experience life at a sprinter’s pace. We jump from one task or activity to the next without giving much thought to its purpose or how it fits into the bigger picture. I suspect that’s often the case when it comes to training and development as well. We show up in a classroom or complete an online course because we’re told it’s required. We don’t want to let anyone down or suffer the consequences of not following orders, so we show up, sign in, and check the box—without taking anything of value away from the experience.

Other times, we proactively sign up for a class because the description is appealing. It promises to give us the ability to do our jobs better, solve problems, get ahead, or learn new skills that will open doors of opportunity. Despite our good intentions to reap these wonderful benefits, upon our departure from the session, we’re smacked in the face by reality—those urgent matters that pull us back to business as usual—so we never recognize the full value of a new approach. Both of these experiences are common and serve as sources of frustration for nearly everyone at one time or another.

The frustration comes from a feeling that you didn’t get a good return on your investment. After all, learning requires an investment. At a minimum, it’s an investment of your time and effort; however, it could also be tuition dollars, travel expenses, or opportunity costs. Whether the investment is small or large, I’m a firm believer in getting the best possible return, so here are five questions you should always ask yourself if you want to get more from your learning experiences:

1. What’s in it for me?

2. How can I immediately apply it?

3. Where does it fit in my daily life?

4. Who else should be part of my journey?

5. When can I teach someone else?

If you consistently ask and answer these five questions, you will learn more and get better, more satisfying results. You’ll also feel that you’re getting a good return on the investment you’re making in your personal development, and start to see the progress you’re looking for.

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