Being a courageous learner

The title of the third session of The Ivy House Award isn’t quite as it seems. Being a courageous learner is so much more than having the courage to learn. We must be able to figure out whether, in any given scenario, we are being motivated by learning or by being right.

But on a deeper level, to be a courageous learner is to do and recognise 5 key things:

  1. Look at the raw facts
  2. Self-coach rather than self-judge
  3. Hold opinions lightly
  4. Fail forward
  5. Know we can only change ourselves

These 5 things from the third session of the Ivy House Award have changed my life, and I promise it will do the same for you if you allow them to. They have revolutionised the way I conduct ANY conversation, whether it be a heated discussion or small talk, and have bettered my thinking and mind-set.

Sixth form students are at crucial time in their lives. In the near future they will be making big decisions about their personal and professional lives, starting work or university and possibly moving away from home. These milestones won’t necessarily be easy and may trigger some challenging situations and conversations. With the learnings from session three of the Ivy House Award, tackling these challenges can be done head-on, with confidence and composure.

In the past, in most conversations I was motivated by being right. I liked to be right because it gave me a good feeling, a feeling of intellectual superiority. But after doing session three of The Award, I gained a level of perspective that allowed me to analyse what impact this was having not only on myself but on those with whom I was having the conversations. I realised that by being motivated by being right, I was ego-driven and closed to understanding others’ perspectives. I would hear what they said only to respond, rather than really listening to understand their views and widen my sphere of knowledge. I could be defensive and snappy, and I felt that, to a degree, my worth was dependent on whether someone thought I was right or wrong. Most of the time, these conversations were rather unpleasant and ended just like that: unpleasantly. Does any of this sound like you? The Ivy House Award came at just the right time, because it was time to make a change.

Following session three of The Award, I was immediately aware of the fact that too often I was focused on being right over learning. I stepped back and thought about the kind of person I want to be, how I want to come across, and what changes I could make. The learnings that had the greatest impact on me and my life were to hold my opinions lightly and realise that I cannot change others.

Holding opinions lightly is a big one. I used to be pretty closed minded: no one was going to change my mind because I’d already decided what I thought. How naïve of me! My opinion is exactly that; just my opinion. By opening up and realising that there’s no shame in changing my mind, I began to relax into conversations in which people disagreed with me. I now ask questions, I am curious and always manage to learn something new. When studying, we are often taught to argue our case or opinions tooth and nail, but this isn’t necessary in real life. We can sit back and allow others to impart their knowledge to us. We might even be asked our opinion, in which case we can share our knowledge, but the motivation should be to learn. I’ve found that conducting conversations like this often results in significantly ‘better’ outcomes, because all parties have multiple perspectives and sources of information. Conversations are much gentler and more informative, as opposed to feeling like a battle.

The realisation that we cannot change others has had the biggest impact on my mental health. It’s far too easy to blame bad moods on someone else or make excuses that our presentation, for example, wasn’t great because someone in the group didn’t pull their weight. By realising that no matter how hard we try, we can never change other people, we focus our energy on being the best version of ourselves. By focusing on our own behaviours, we are much more likely to experience feelings of inner peace. If we think we can control others, at any point someone else’s actions could ruin the rest of our day, leaving us in a stressful state of suspense. Once we realise that we only have power over our own actions, these feelings of stress evaporate.

Unfortunately, many people value being considered ‘right’ above all else; above the nature of the conversation, listening and learning, how the other person feels and often even above the ultimate outcome. This results in defensiveness and high-tension conversations. On the other hand, those motivated by learning often come across more relaxed, genuinely interested and open-minded. How would you rather be?

As a result of the Ivy House Award, I now very rarely have arguments (rarely, not never – I’m still human!), they are more like discussions. I stay calm and curious if someone holds an opinion contrary to mine, I learn from my mistakes, I focus on my own behaviour and I find myself learning and understanding so much more than I have in the past. As a result of these learnings and changes, I now have full confidence in my ability to navigate any conversation or situation I find myself in.

Session three of The Award encourages us to notice where we spend most of our time, so we can consciously move our focus if we so choose. In order to see changes in our lives, we need to begin by making changes within ourselves and to our behaviours. As John Ruskin said, “what we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do”. So, with the help of the Ivy House Award, you can start making changes, and you’ll see a difference.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

By Anouska Jantzen
18th June 2020

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