What you know today is not what you will know five years from now.  That’s a given.  What isn’t a given is what you will know, how much you will know and the quality of what you will know.  Yet all three – what, how much and the quality – is up to you.

It’s interesting that people plan their work (goals, objectives, quarterly reviews), and they plan their children’s work (school, basketball practice, scout meeting), but do people pay attention to planning what they will learn beyond what is routine?  How they will grow?

Borrowing from my experiences and what I’ve learned from others, I’ve come up with seven steps that will have an impact on what I will know five years from now.  You can borrow them if you’d like.  Remember, being aware is the first step, what you do next is up to you.

In looking back on my short and wonderful life, I wish I would have walked the Appalachian Trail when I lived out east. I wish I would have spent more time in Yellowstone when I lived out west.  I also wish I would have taken the time to learn more about the cities in which I trained when I was traveling extensively across the US and Canada. Sure, I picked up a lot of great information – history, geography and weather patterns (my piercing headache in Calgary was blamed on the chinook that passed through the day I arrived).  I learned a lot, but if I had planned ahead, I could have learned and experienced so much more.

I know this because I trained for awhile with a guy from Pittsburgh who always seemed to make the most of a day.  For example, after ending our training day in a suburb of San Francisco, he suggested we figure out how to get into San Francisco to have dinner on the bay.  What sounded simple enough ended up being an excursion filled with trains, taxis and walking.  I was exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel at 2:00 a.m., yet I experienced and learned so much from walking the harbor, soaking in the atmosphere, the people and the weather.  This guy knew how to experience and learn far more than what a work day held for him.

It’s never too late to consider the impact I have on what I will know later, and the same is true for you.  In taking inventory of my life, I first gave myself kudos for what I’ve done, what I’ve learned.  Then I did some thinking about what direction I’d like my learning to take.  If you chose to do the same, here are some steps to consider:

  1. Take an inventory of your life.  Enjoy the process.  Forgive yourself.  Congratulate yourself.
  2. Make a list of all the things you’ve been meaning to do.  A bike ride across the state is a learning experience, so is studying French.
  3. Consider the list for a week.
  4. Circle the top three or top five things.
  5. Chose one item from your list. This is important; just choose one!  And make sure it is do-able – after all, if you live in the northern part of the country, it’s just plain torture to ride a bike across the state during January or February).
  6. Focus on it.  If it requires planning, enjoy the process.
  7. Begin.  Notice I’m not saying “do it”; I’m saying “begin.  Just begin.  Pick up the book and read a page.  Go outside and walk around the block.  Go on line and look up the course offerings for Learning to Speak French.  Check out the websites for MBA programs.  Just begin. . .

I have done this.  It works.  Here is an easy example of what I’ve done to be more involved in what I will know in five years.

I used to read quite a lot, but had gotten out of the habit, so after some consideration I circled READ as my first choice to influence what I will know in five years.  Then I went to the Library.  I walked around and around the stacks – I didn’t know where to start.  I ended up choosing two books – a novel for fun and a book on leadership.  I brought the books home and decided, since I’m a morning person, to read the leadership book in the morning and the novel at night.  Mornings were no problem – I fell into my old habit immediately and now look forward to starting my day by reading for a half hour.  Evenings were more of a problem.  I actually circled the book – I knew it would be good, I knew I would enjoy it, but I just couldn’t pick it up!  Finally, on the third evening I picked it up, sat down and read two pages.  I didn’t like it and I put it down.  Next evening I did the same thing.  I made myself read long enough to allow the book to pull me in.  That’s it!  I’m back.  I’m reading again.  So, the process works.  Try it.

I wonder what I’ll do next. . .