Are you a Learner?

By Betty McDowell

“Responsibility for learning belongs to the student, regardless of age.” Robert Martin

QuestionsOne of the joys of working at Heartbeat is that I am always learning. I love learning, which is a good thing, especially since I serve in a ministry that is always changing, growing, and being challenged.

Next month is Heartbeat’s annual Institute for Center Effectiveness℠ (Nov. 27–30 in Columbus, Ohio). One of the key principles we teach each year is that we are always functioning in one of two modes: judger or learner.

How do you know which mode you’re functioning in right now? Ask yourself, “What questions am I asking?”

You see, we talk to ourselves on a regular basis, and we’re constantly asking ourselves questions. When you look in a mirror, for instance, you are undoubtedly able to say something about yourself. It may be a derogatory remark about your looks or perhaps “a thumbs-up”, but it might also be a question about what you expect the coming day to bring. If the question you’d ask yourself has to do with your looks, you’re in “judging” mode, but if your question has to do with the upcoming day, you’re in “learning” mode. In other words, your self-talk tells you which mode you’re in. 

Besides self-talk, we are also in one of these two modes when we’re dealing with other people. Do you find yourself thinking, “How can I prove I am right?”, or is the question your asking yourself more of, “How can I better understand what he/she is saying?” The first of these indicates you’re in “judging” mode, while the second shows you’re in “learning” mode.

If you work in a life-affirming ministry, you need to become a student of the clients you serve. Stay in learning mode and you’ll become a better listener, which will put you in a position to be of much more help to another person. Ask yourself inquisitive learning questions, rather than deciding you already know everything you need to know about a person and their situation.

The best leaders are always the best learners.

Like an inquisitive child, start to enjoy the process of learning again. Begin to examine your self-talk and the questions you ask yourself on a regular basis, and begin forming better questions about the people you are talking with and the situations you find yourself facing.

You’re never too old to become a learner.

To think more about this, pick up Change your Questions, Change your Life, a book by Marilee Adams, and attend ourInstitute for Center Effectiveness this November.

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