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Perpetual Learning

As I stated in my article on What is Professional Software Development one characteristic of professionals is growth: they are constantly seeking to improve and grow. This is especially important in the software field due to the rapid change brought on by the constant introduction of new versions of existing technologies and completely new technologies (web, mobile devices). I think the phrase 'Perpetual Learning' best captures the mindset a professional needs to have, and it serves as a guiding principle for me.

The best example of perpetual learning in action is infants. They are constantly observing their environment, interacting with anything they can get their hands on, and moving all over (as best they can :). As parents, we don't need to teach them to do this: it is a natural state of being for them, just like eating or sleeping. There is really no reason why we as adults cannot have the same attitude. Unfortunately, this tends to be lost as we progress through our school years. The imposition of extrinsic rewards for learning (i.e. grades), the attitude that school and homework is unpleasant work and not fun, the mandated curriculum, and the often negative peer pressure against excelling combine to make learning seem like a chore.

The good news is that as professionals finished with our formal schooling, we can regain that sense of wonder, exploration and pleasure from learning. We can choose the material, there won't be an exam waiting at the end, and we can learn at our own pace. You just need to change your perception of learning: it is not a chore or work, but a natural state of being. When I'm working on a personal project to learn some new technology, or reading a book, I like to call that learning time, as opposed to the term "study time", which is what I would have called it when I was back in school. The term "learning time" to me has a much more positive connotation, and using that term helps motivate me.

"Reality check!", you might say. "I work full-time and don't have the time or energy to spend learning." My response: you may not have the time or energy to pursue specific learning interests outside of work, but you always have the opportunity to learn, whether at work or at home. That's what the attitude of perpetual learning is all about.

You can learn without really knowing it, but your learning will be much more effective if it is planned and guided. That's why it is useful to have a learning plan. It could include topics you are interested in learning, and methods you will use to pursue those topics. When applied specifically to your career, this is often called a career development plan.

See the rest of my articles in the Perpetual Learning series:

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One Comment on “Perpetual Learning”

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