How To Create An Environment For Self-Development
Recently, there has been a huge emphasis on continuous improvement. In order to succeed in this ever-changing world, one needs to adapt and keep on developing themselves. As such, whether you are a manager or want to improve yourself, it is important to create an environment in which people, or yourself, can learn and develop without judgement. How can we collectively create an environment for self-development? Here are 4 ways:
1. Celebrate small wins.
If you’ve picked up a new skill or achieved a milestone, it is worth celebrating (within budget, of course)! It can be something small, such as completing a short online course or sticking to your weekly exercise routine. Celebrating small wins keeps you extrinsically motivated and pushes you to reach your goals. The rewards can be simple, like treating yourself to a drink or buying new tools to further hone your skills. For example, if you have been trying to improve your calligraphy skills, you can reward yourself by upgrading your brush sets!
Similarly, in a workplace environment, recognize when your colleagues or staff have improved in a certain area. As much as we feel like the outcome in itself is a sufficient reward, there are times when people feel they deserve a pat on the back (and rightfully so). This is especially helpful for people who lack confidence.
Remember that a little bit of assurance and encouragement actually goes a long way! Your reward doesn’t have to be extraordinary or expensive but can be in the form of a genuine compliment or even a small doughnut.
2. Give and learn to receive constructive criticism.
It is really, really important to be self-aware. Being self-aware is like a muscle. You can train it to become stronger through self-reflection and having a reality check on where you are and how far you’ve come. Here are some examples of questions or journal prompts to help you focus on continuously growing:
- Am I proud of these outcomes?
- What could I have done better?
- If I were given the chance to re-do this, how would I have done it differently?
It is always easier to point out the mistakes of others, but pointing out flaws for the sake of them does not necessarily lead to better results. It is when you are intentional about being constructive, rather than just criticizing, that you can add value to others’ growth.
Here are a few extra tips on how you can give constructive criticism:
Establish your intentions
Set the tone right from the beginning. Establish that your comments are not a personal attack on their character, but purely based on the work or deliverable being discussed.
Don’t just tell them that they are heading in the wrong direction, but guide them towards the correct path! Being constructive is all about focusing on solutions instead of problems. How would you advise someone if they were in your shoes?
If you have had previous experiences that you’ve learned from, know about any best practices or possess any existing materials that could be helpful, share them. Providing a tool or something tangible to help the receiver work out the problem could keep them motivated to overcome this challenge!
Request for verification
After you’ve given your feedback, ask if your comments make sense or have actually been helpful. At the end of the day, what really matters is whether the receiver is able to take in your feedback and work on it to improve.
For further reading, check out this article on what to do when you receive criticism or rejection.
3. Dedicate space to learning.
This doesn’t have to be anything specific, but it’s important to be intentional and set apart learning from other daily tasks. For example, when I started learning Korean (albeit very slowly), I dedicated a new notebook to practising and writing Korean phrases down. It’s a simple act, but it keeps me disciplined (feeling bad about wasting paper also pushes me to want to practice/fill up the pages!). If you have a big space at home, you can dedicate a separate table or room just for learning.
In a work setting, you can allow your staff to dedicate a certain number of hours to training and self-improvement. Dedicating just an hour a week for people to learn sets up a healthy culture for continuous improvement.
4. Share what you’ve learnt.
There is no better way to solidify what you’ve learnt and lock this knowledge into your long-term memory than to share it with others! This could just be over a chat with your friends or publishing a LinkedIn post about what you’ve learnt. Being able to articulate your learning journey always leads to a sense of pride. If people commend you or are interested to find out more, it makes you feel even happier about your milestones, which keeps you motivated to learn more!
Here are some challenges you can take up:
- Publish a post on social media about what you have recently learnt. It could be a skill such as crocheting, or taking up an online course about Excel. Share about your journey proudly!
- Organize a webinar about it. There is no better way to test your own knowledge than to teach it!
Similarly, encourage your staff to share how they are growing! This helps cultivate an environment of curiosity and willingness to learn. It could start with something small, such as sharing an inspiring video or an interesting podcast they came across, or simply talking about a book they’ve recently read.
Self-development can come in many forms or formats. Learning is no longer about classroom settings, textbooks or formal courses, but it is simply curiosity, love for knowledge and encouraging critical thinking. As individuals, we need to shift away from the mindset that growth is painful or boring, but it is about adding value to our own lives and those of others. If we are in positions of influence, we should also help our employees realize that adopting a growth mindset and investing in self-development can be easy, and is definitely worth the time and effort.