I should have your attention based on the title of this post. For some of you, my claim is not believable, and so you are reading just out of curiosity. Others of you are willing to consider the fact that two simple words can make a huge difference in your life. You are reading with genuine interest, but likely with some hesitation until you see how I plan to back up my claim.
Whatever the case, if you are reading this, you are most likely someone who likes to learn. You are a reader (at least to some degree) and you seek out your own learning opportunities. You also like to put yourself into situations where you can learn from others’ knowledge and experience.
For the sake of this discussion, I want you to think back over the past several weeks. Think about two or three situations where you have been in a position to learn something new. It could be at church, in a seminar or conference setting, or even in a book you have been reading. This should not be too hard for you to do if you are the learner that I think you are.
Now, think about each situation and pick something specific that you learned. Was it a spiritual truth? Or did you learn a new, more effective method to accomplish your work? Maybe you learned a new approach to conflict resolution or team building.
Now that you have this specific lesson in mind, make a list of the ways that you have made changes to your life as a result of this new learning’s application. How has what you learned impacted your life? What is different in your life, work, family, etc., as a result of what you learned?
Learning Without Application
Unfortunately, it happens too often that we learn something exciting and new, but we then fail to execute the application of that learning to our lives. Maybe it is not every time, but I would bet that you know exactly what I am talking about. You can probably think of a dozen or more examples of things that you have learned from others, but you have failed to make any distinctive changes to your life as a result of your newly-discovered knowledge.
Why is that? I will not speak for you, but in my case there are often many reasons. Sometimes the learning is a difficult idea and application to my life would require serious commitment. Other times, the idea is easier to apply, but my interest fades with time and I never do anything about it. There are even times that I simply forget what I learned because I did not document it to make sure I revisited it later.
Your reasons may be different than mine, but the fact remains that we are too often guilty of learning more than we apply to our lives. If we are comfortable with our current state, then this may not be a big problem. However, if we a truly committed to becoming the people God created us to be, then we must be willing to continuously learn AND grow. We must commit to applying what we learn!
In an effort to help you with this issue, I want to share a simple 3-step action plan. To the extent you follow this plan, I guarantee you will see incremental changes and improved results in your life. It is so simple, you will be tempted to overlook it or dismiss it outright. I understand. At the same time, for those who embrace it, you will see the change immediately.
Step #1 – Document What You Learn
I keep a notebook with me virtually everywhere I go. If I am in a meeting, conference, Sunday School, or even traveling, I have a notebook within easy reach. In the event a notebook is not handy, my iPhone can always serve as a backup “notebook.” The bottom line is that I almost always have a way to document something I have learned.
Once I have written it down, I have a system that ensures I revisit the learning later, at a time when I can process it and make further decisions regarding the lesson’s applications. Your system may vary, but the key is to have one. Simply writing it down and moving on will not accomplish the life change you are seeking.
Step #2 – Ask, “So what?”
Here is the secret sauce, the two words that make all the difference. I attempt to ask these two words every time I learn something new. These two words represent the transfer of the power of learning into the resulting action we seek.
For me, it works this way. When I have the time to review my notebook and think about something I have learned, I then ask, “So what?” Why is this new information important? What does this have to do with me? What is God saying to me in this lesson? How should I respond? What changes should I make in my life as a result of this new information? I try my best to get very specific with my answers.
As I said earlier, you may be thinking this is just too simple. Maybe it is, but how would your life be different if you could go back one year and ask this question concerning every new idea or lesson you have encountered? I will leave that answer to you, but I promise you there is a significant difference.
If you consider nothing else, consider how your life could (or should) be different if you used this question with every significant verse you have read recently in the Bible. Test yourself…how is your application in this area?
Step #3 – Act On The Answer
Once you have learned something new AND determined how it applies to your life, the only remaining step is to act! Often, it is difficult to act until we know what very specific steps we are to take. Having completed Step #2 above, we should now have our next actions in mind. Now, we are more likely to move.
This step certainly takes commitment, but we already knew that. Accountability also helps here, so don’t overlook that resource. If you are committed to grow and improve, this step will not be your biggest obstacle. It will not always be easy, but once you know exactly what you are to do, the doing becomes easier.
I will repeat myself – this action plan is VERY simple…but it is also VERY powerful. Just give it a try the next time you are in a place where you can learn something new. Please understand that the first time or two may be slightly uncomfortable or awkward, but pushing through will bring reward in the form of growth and improvement.