Chances are that your news feed (like mine) has been filled with inspirational and motivational articles focused on New Year’s resolutions and overall self-improvement. Each year we approach the New Year as a blank slate on which we can redefine our futures. Many of us focus on making or breaking habits. What are habits? How are they formed?
A habit is defined as “a usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). More often than not, we tend to associate habits with negative behavior such as smoking, watching too much TV, or eating junk food. But habits can be good! Take for example, the habit of continuous learning.
The majority of us say that we need to focus more time on learning and professional development. However, the reality is that we face lean staffing, competing priorities, and never ending email inboxes – development often gets pushed to the backburner.
How do we take the goal of continuous learning and professional development and turn it into a habit?
There are many theories regarding how much time it takes to form a habit. The 21 days theory has been around for decades, while some studies have shown that it can take an average of 66 days to form a habit. Regardless of whether it takes you three weeks or 3 months to form a habit, the consistent ingredient is repetition. Jeremey Dean takes this a step further in his book Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick. Dean describes a key difference between habits that are mundane such as flossing your teeth and habits that inspire such as practicing gratitude. Through extensive research, Dean demonstrates that when we introduce variety into our habit we are more likely to benefit from positive emotional and psychological benefits as opposed to simply performing a task.
Take this approach of repetition and variety then apply it to professional development. If you simply engage in a learning activity to check the box, you aren’t likely to retain what you’ve learned and put it into practice. There’s no spark of motivation. However, if content is carefully aligned, curated and presented in a meaningful way employees will be more likely to form a healthy habit of learning. This benefits employee engagement and performance which translates into a stronger organization.
Skillsoft has developed a tool for our customers, the New Habit Calendar [LINK: http://newhabitcalendar.com/]. In collaboration with your Skillsoft Customer Success Consultant, we will discuss your competency framework or other defined behaviors, skills and learning initiatives. Then we will map content in alignment to your goals and deliver a customized New Habit Calendar specifically targeted to your learning initiatives. The result is an easy to use tool that enables employees to cultivate a healthy habit of learning through repetition and variety.
Reach out to your Skillsoft Customer Success Consultant and transform learning from a goal to a habit.
Ann Cantrell is a customer success consultant with Skillsoft.