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The 5 Power Behaviors of a Self-directed Learner

If you are preparing and mentoring a team of Gen Z employees to lead in the future, or you are teaching kids at home how to excel, then you might be working on developing a “Growth Mindset” in your mentee(s). In her book “Mindset - The New Psychology of Success”, Carol S. Dweck, stated:

- Exceptional individuals have a “special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses”. It is interesting that those with the growth mindset seem to have the talent.

- The other thing exceptional people seem to have is a special talent for converting life’s setbacks into future successes.

When young adults and kids give up on learning something, it is often because they are not improving or making any progress, and not necessarily because they are lazy. A self-directed learner would have the right behavior to shift the course of things and demonstrate a growth mindset.

My 13 years old daughter has always demonstrated this capability of self-directing her learning sphere, with astonishing results and a pride in her achievements. Her skills were developed by a hybrid multi-lingual curriculum (English/French). What she exhibits every time she faces a challenge at school is the below 5 power behaviors of a self-directed learner.

  1. Shift strategy: “The approach I am using isn’t working, so I’ll try something else.” When a particular strategy doesn’t work, she shifts her thinking, look at things from a different angle and finds a new idea/path to pursue.

  2. Seek challenges: “I can stretch myself more, this target is easy, I can do better.” Setting a challenging target for her marks was always a driver for her to keep improving and succeeding at school. A healthy competition between friends and classmates could yield good results. One element though to keep in mind in such a situation is not to become too competitive and damage social relationships.

  3. Persist: “This is difficult, but I won’t give up.” She is a fighter and keeps trying, discussing with her group of friends till she is satisfied with the outcome. Never giving up on people or projects.

  4. Respond to setbacks: “I’m not going to be thrown just because my approach didn’t work out.” When faced with obstacles, this is the time when she self-reflects. Over the years and as she grew up, she learnt to take a break and think through the issues. Starting point to improvement is acknowledging that setbacks are frequent in life and these need to be dealt with and not ignored.

  5. Seek appropriate help: “I’ve tried to solve this problem myself using several different methods and I’m truly stuck. It’s okay to ask for help.” She researches and makes good use of the internet and free access to the information. She asks around to get to the correct source of information.

When mentoring and coaching someone to be a self-directed learner, ask them first to self-assess their previous responses to challenges, identify the areas that need improvement and keep the relevant starter sentences above in mind when they feel challenged or demotivated.

A self-directed learner is a Lifelong Learner

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