It happens all the time. We find ourselves in the midst of a challenge and we rely on strategies and actions that have worked for us in the past. And often these strategies produce the results we want. If they don’t, we implement new strategies until we get the right outcome or we run out of ideas. This approach, called First Order Learning, is a viable method of problem solving because as we know, our results are created by the actions we take. While First Order Learning is effective at creating positive change, it also has its limitations.
With First Order Learning, we observe our actions and the impact they have on our results. What we don’t notice is how we view and interpret our situation before we develop our strategies or take action. And because we don’t notice this, we don’t question our assumptions and perspectives about our circumstances.
In today’s dynamic environment, we are often faced with ongoing change or are up against situations that are outside of our experience and expertise. When faced with these conditions, First Order Learning is no longer enough. We need to supplement the way we learn with the practice of self-awareness and Second Order Learning. With Second Order Learning, we begin to observe how we limit possibilities by the assumptions, beliefs and interpretations we bring to our situation. The intent is to become better observers of ourselves and the way we observe our world.
Learning to observe ourselves and the way we see the world opens us to new possibilities and new ways of solving problems. With Second Order Learning we become more receptive to new ideas and explore these options with renewed curiosity. We develop new capacities that help us shift our way of being – our beliefs, our moods and our reactions — to create the outcomes we desire.
It takes courage to awaken to how we limit our results by the way we look at, and interpret, things. We have to be willing to look at the silent dialog we have with ourselves about our circumstances. And we have to become aware and attentive to the impact of how we interpret and react to new information.
Second Order Learning is an ongoing commitment to personal growth through objective self-observation. This ongoing practice helps us develop new perspectives, responses and outcomes as we integrate our insights into our daily life and decisions. The questions below can help you improve your self-awareness and identify the underlying motivations that drive your behavior and limit your results. With this information as your foundation, you can then focus your attention on taking action and assimilating your new insights into your life — creating the positive change you desire.
EXERCISE: Think of a current challenge you are facing – one where you are not getting the results you want. Stop, take a second look, observe yourself and ask the following questions:
- What are my desired outcomes (both stated and unstated)?
- What stories am I telling myself about this situation?
- What assumptions, beliefs or attitudes are impacting this situation or the way I see it?
- If I changed my assumptions and beliefs what new possibilities might open to me?
- How can I better align my thoughts, language and actions with my intentions?
Join us for The Language of Leadership and discover new ways of observing yourself and your challenges. During this powerful program, you’ll learn how to shift your way of being to open up new possibilities for yourself and your team.
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