Career Development Skills

Do we need to unlearn, re-program or just evolve?

This thought was partly inspired by a doom scrolling session where I encountered people bickering over what I felt was a stupid thing in what the process of one discarding what is not useful to them anymore is called.

Usually, I don’t make comments on these things, but I find more recently that people in my field of education are too busy bickering about what to call things and little on how approaches, models and thoughts can actually help people improve.

So, perhaps this is a semi-rant/semi-awakening to focus on the positive and not the pointless.

It seems like the concept of unlearning is becoming popular once more.

I’ve written about this at length before, covering why I feel it’s an even more important process for workplaces than figuring out “what training should I do this year” as part of an annual performance review conversation.

I find (especially on my haunt of LinkedIn) that many are getting angry at the word unlearning and spend too much time debating over the title of a process of removing what no longer serves us rather than advocating for the process itself.

I’m not interested in debating the title of such a process FYI, in case you want to engage me on some future social media post!

What is more important to me is having a continued conversation about recognising what serves us now and what does not. That is a practice which I feel is worthwhile to endorse.

One of my favourite quotes linked to this comes from the wise Bruce Lee “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own”

I keep this in mind when I’m going through my own process of figuring out the things I do that might be holding me back or even causing harm to me and others.

Sometimes, this falls under a process of reprogramming instead of completely abandoning something. I’m a techie at heart so the word reprogramme gets my technical mind going!

The concept of reprogramming our mindset, habits and behaviours is covered expertly in a book I highly recommend everyone check out called the Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peter. This book helped me recognise how our minds work without all the usual scientific jargon.

A large chunk of the book focuses on the intricate ways our mind absorbs and stores data. Steve refers to some of this as our autopilot mechanisms and explored the gremlins and goblins that hack this system which can complicate how we operate.

I’m not going to break down the whole book here because I’d rather you connect with this yourself and form your own thoughts and conclusions. What I can say is that it’s a must-read for any human in my opinion.

Anyway, back to my original train of thought here on recognising what no longer serves us (whatever label you want to give it).

I believe in some areas it is more important to develop the awareness to recognise such things that limit us than to keep pouring more new stuff into our system. You can’t have a lovely house without strong foundations.

Much like you can’t have high-performing (balanced) humans without a strong foundation.

So, in summary, let’s spend just as much time on what we need to recognise as areas to discard/reprogramme or evolve just as much as we focus on the new shiny things to add to our operating system.

If curious, you can learn about the process I use 2-3 times a year to recognise where I need to do this work too. Hopefully, this proves of value for you too.

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