Forget what you’ve heard about old dogs and new tricks. Even if it were true–and it isn’t–it wouldn’t help you out. The fact is that you’ll need to adapt in order to thrive in the future workplace. And the good news is that our minds are wired with an unquenchable desire to learn, whether we recognize it or not.
To help you tap into your learning potential, keep these three fundamental questions on standby–and revisit them whenever you start feeling worried that your skills or knowledge might be getting stale.
1. Am I Stuck In A Rut?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell, unless you take a step back to consider it. Think about any habits or patterns you’ve fallen into: Do they feel tedious, dull, and less productive than they could be? Do your work routines feel hard to change, even if you wanted to? Take a hard look at your daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists: Are you doing the same things over and over again, but not making career progress? Are you talking to the same people, doing the same tasks, and sitting at the same desk day after day?
Picking up new skills and knowledge can help you shake things up and eventually move forward. But first you’ve got to just switch up your routine. Try getting up an hour earlier, taking on a passion project (something you’ve been meaning to dip into for the last few years but just haven’t yet), making new friends, or setting one new goal for yourself–and ditching an old one. Avoid ruminating over how long–or why–you’ve been in the rut. Just start taking the steps necessary to get out of it.
2. What Am I Really Afraid Of?
Career-related fears can be downright paralyzing no matter how far along you are in your professional life. When the change you’re contemplating involves a financial impact, lifestyle adjustments, or what other people might think, there’s a chance you’re exaggerating the negative consequences and failing to act as a result.
So start small. Always been interested in learning more about data analysis but haven’t found the time? Find a class online or at your local community college that you can take at your own pace. Think some new photography skills might add to your portfolio as a creative professional? A nearby workshop, short-term class, or instructional session can help you get started. Once you make change a priority–and take a clear step toward it–those initial fears will start to look like speed bumps instead of towering obstacles. You’ll be able to tackle unfamiliar new experiences headfirst, knowing it will just take a little effort to ramp up the learning process.
3. Do I Have The Right Heroes?
No one’s an island, as the saying goes, and it’s good news for picking up new skills at any stage of your career. Mentors, coaches, bosses, and colleagues are all good candidates to help you along. Don’t hesitate to reach out–or consider whether you know the right people to reach out to in the first place. If you don’t, think more broadly than your existing network (but also refresh your networking efforts): Your “heroes” can include authors, athletes, entrepreneurs, inventors, or public servants–folks you might not know personally, but whose ideas and instruction can help you chart a new direction.
For whatever reason, we tend to give up on the idea of “role models” after early adulthood; once we start mentoring younger people, it may feel odd to hold others up as your own “heroes.” That’s a mistake. Anyone you can gain insight or knowledge from–whether it’s through firsthand conversation, webinars, books, or any other medium–counts as a career hero who can help you progress. Study their work, learn what makes them successful, figure out who their mentors are, and then apply those lessons in your own life.
Prying yourself out of familiarity or mediocrity isn’t always easy, but it’s completely doable at any age or experience level. Challenge yourself to do something new and even a little scary every day, and you’ll start to feel revitalized. But it all starts with a little introspection. When things get boring or monotonous, ask yourself these three questions so you can set a new course.