There are two different categories of learning; methods and principles. Each have their own unique purpose and can be beneficial if used properly. I can remember a co-worker of mine telling me that I needed to add parmesan cheese when making pesto. He told me exactly how much to add at the end of mixing everything together. I finally asked why it was so necessary to add it at the end. When he explained that it was a thickening agent and helped to give the sauce substance, I realized, not only the “what”, but also the “why”. Now I know when something I’m cooking needs to be thickened, I can use parmesan cheese at the end of the recipe and it works everytime.
My education seemed to revolve around the “what to do.” Now that I know the what and realize that it works, I need to focus on the “why”. These two categories are the main focus of self-directed learning. Most of us know the “what”. It is through reading and thinking that we can understand the “why” and make better decisions in the future based on knowing this.
Why is self-directed education so difficult? Because we don’t make time for it! I think it was Steven Covey who was talking to a group of business people and they all agreed that reading and education was a vital step in becoming better leaders and managers of their companies and departments. Unfortunately, many of them admitted that they didn’t make it a priority to read. When asked why, one of them held up his cell phone and stated, “Because books don’t ring.”
This is where discipline and self-direction become vitally important. By resolving to want to be more self-directed, you can put a plan into action regarding how to educate and direct your thinking. I can remember a school my wife taught at where each of the high school kids were given the tools to guide their own schooling. They were given access to the educational standards and all the information the school had to offer and even had regular shuttles to the library to access more information if needed. Once they understood the concept of the school, they were left alone. Some kids realized that if they motivated themselves to work hard at the beginning of the year, they wouldn’t be so rushed at the end. Others decided that there was enough time to get the work done so they would slack at the beginning. I am continually resolving myself to prepare and educate myself early and be prepared when a time of action comes.