Establishing a Habit of Learning

In 5 Steps

Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

to Empower Your Learners

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

Corporate learning professionals have access to more learning content than ever before. In a recent CLO article, Josh Bersin describes the effect of the internet on the e-learning ecosystem:

“Today, we can watch an expert, jump from topic to topic, interact with the teacher, and submit real exercises and exams for evaluation online. Most community colleges and universities offer accredited courses online, and my personal experience shows they work extremely well. What does this all mean to us in corporate training? E-learning is back with a vengeance. Digital learning today is more exciting, dynamic and relevant than ever. Video, social experiences, gaming and online accreditation are all common.”

Not only has the medium of learning content diversified, the sheer amount of learning content has exploded. Degreed has cataloged over 250,000 online learning courses and 3 million informal learning activities from more than 1200 sources. Everything from live, virtual and eLearning courses to videos, MOOCs, bootcamps, articles, books, podcasts, webinars, conferences, online communities, apps and more. This content is coming from new and diverse sources, Crunchbase lists 1400+ edtech startups. In addition to traditional academic institutions bringing learning directly to individuals via the MOOCs, there’s also for-profit education providers, consulting firms, publishers, tech firms and non-profits.

The result? Here’s what the learning content landscape looks like today:

Degreed_2016_Learning_Landscape

Why you should volunteer at conferences

After volunteering for two years at different events, many doors have opened for a broke young entrepreneur like me. Mostly through serendipity.

  • Another volunteer recruited me to run events with her at Influencer Series, an intimate gathering of highly influential leaders. We host the events at different VC firms every month and our guests included Jim McKelvey (Square), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), and Leah Busque (Task Rabbit). It’s pretty rad.
  • One of the conferences that I volunteered for last year recruited me to work this year’s conference. Because I had built trust during the first event, it was an honor to be apart of the Lean Startup Conference 2015. Being friends with the rest of the staff is also a blessing.
  • I became close with the founder of another conference that I volunteered for last year. I stayed in touch and Sam Parr hired me to intern for him at The Hustle. A media company that he started to compliment the annual flagship conference, HustleCon.
  • On top of career opportunities, I’ve met so many other awesome volunteers along the way. The conference organizers even invite me to get lunch or cool events, which makes me feel pretty special.
  • Last but not least, I also get to attend parts of the actual conference! Connecting with speakers, learning from the talks, and eating all the free food.

By the way, all these events were free (for volunteers) to attend, saving an estimated $15,000+ dollars. In some cases, they actually paid me.

I started volunteering as a broke 18-year old with no knowledge or network in the entrepreneurship space. When I interviewed for my first startup, they asked me “What dream startup would I work for if I could?” I told them I’d do digital media for the Golden State Warriors.

In case you don’t watch basketball, GSW has been around longer than our parents have been alive. They’re definitely not a startup.

So here I was, a total newbie to entrepreneurship looking to meet new people and learn more.

When I asked my professors and other adults for career advice, they kept telling me to “go network.” And that “it’s who you know, not what you know.”

Okay, that’s nice to know. How do I even get started?

I was listening to something on YouTube and I came across Tim Ferriss’ name. I discovered that volunteering for conferences was actually how Tim Ferriss got his start when he moved to the Silicon Valley. I literally followed his footsteps and received similar results two years later.

Before we get deep into volunteering, let’s start with why we go to conferences. If you think it’s for the talks, save yourself some money. The talks are usually available after the event.

The number one reason we go is to meet people.

Potential business partners, co-founders, investors, friends, soulmate? Who knows!?

When you’re a young with no experience and no money to buy a conference ticket, the best thing you can do is volunteer.

Even though you might be doing “dirty” work like taking out the trash, handling registration, or giving directions, it’s an experience. One that’s shared with other volunteers whom you’ll get to also meet!

I remember the day before HustleCon, I drove up to SF to organize name badges with the rest of the HustleCon volunteers. In two hours, we were in a small room together doing this mindless task but we were having fun! Talking about anything and everything.

When I met Felicia Chanco, the person that hired me to run the Influencer Series events, we were both doing registration together for the Lean Startup Conference 2014. We got along instantly and started talking about the most random topics, from traveling to girls to music.

Felicia also got a chance to see how “professional” I was as a volunteer. I was well mannered (thanks Mom!), organized, and genuinely cared about the success of the conference.

That one person changed the course of my career and life. Since that day, my goal at any event is to make one solid connection rather than ten weak ones.

I think you should volunteer if:

  • You’re broke but still want to be in the conference environment
  • You want to connect with other volunteers & conference organizers
  • You’re okay with doing “dirty work”
  • You’re comfortable with not getting any ROI with your time. Opportunities come with serendipity, and not every event experience is going to be a grand slam.
  • You believe in the conference itself and the values it has
  • Your main focus is to help the success of the event. Everything else is secondary.

How do you volunteer?

Most conferences are dying to have high quality volunteers. The only problem is that most volunteers suck and are always asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?”

Also, the volunteer turnover rate is high at conferences which frustrates conference organizers. Not showing up when you promise them that you’ll be there will always leave a bad impression in their mind.

If you’re convinced after reading this post that you want to volunteer for a conference, there are three simple steps to get there.

  1. Find events that you want to volunteer at
  2. Find the conference organizers’ email and ask
  3. Show up at the conference and do an awesome job

Finding Events

I’m fortunate to receive Startup Digest emails, a curated list of upcoming events in the Bay Area. It is my go-to place to look for conferences that I resonate with.

For you, find out where all the people you want to meet are hanging out and explore how you can attend those events. Are they into conferences? Small meetups? Medium sized events?

There are the obvious answers like Meetup or Eventbrite, but I would challenge you to find those curated lists in your space. If there isn’t one, this is the perfect opportunity for you to step up and be a community leader.

Email Them

There are so many tools to find someone’s email.

Shoot them a quick message that you want to volunteer. Convey that you’re trustworthy & reliable.

Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).

Here’s the exact email I sent to Sam Parr, the co-founder of HustleCon.

Notice how I wrote my email copy to mirror how HustleCon wrote their website copy. It establishes a connection and shows that I did my homework, before Sam ever met me.

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If they don’t answer in a week, follow up to float the email to the top of their busy inbox.

After you volunteer for a few conferences, you can use that in your email copy as “social proof.” It’s all about leverage.

Showing Up

You found an event, the organizer agreed for you to volunteer. Now what? Here are a few last volunteering tips to making a memorable impression as a volunteer:

  • Take on as much responsibility as you can.

The more stuff they give you, the better. Go above and beyond your call of duty to build trust.

My friend Shawn, who volunteered with me at the Lean Startup Conference, told our volunteer captain ahead of time that he has stage production experience. So in case anything went wrong he would be able to step in and help out.

It turns out, the stage production guy had food poisoning and couldn’t run the show. Ragen, our volunteer captain, ran to find Shawn and found him in an all black outfit with a dress shirt and tie (the perfect outfit to run backstage). Like a badass, Shawn was already prepared.

He hurried backstage, put on a headset, and completely saved the conference from having more technical issues. The staff and I have a running joke that he was the hero of the conference.

Yes, he was even invited to have dinner with the whole Lean Startup staff to show their appreciation! And yes, he got hired to work this year’s conference where I had a chance to reunite with him.

Good things happen when you go above and beyond your call of duty.

  • Represent the brand with respect.

As a volunteer for a conference, you are indirectly part of their extended staff. What you do reflects what people think of the event. I always pretend as if it was my conference, how would I want my own volunteers to act? And then do that.

Look, this method might sounds too good to be true. “Volunteer for free, network your way with the staff, speakers, and other attendees, and get a bunch of opportunities.”

Those are the unguaranteed benefits that might come with volunteering. But actually take pride in  what you’re there to do. You’re there to help the brand. Help the conference run smoothly. Help the attendees have the best experience they can possibly have.

Don’t forget why you’re there and don’t forget your responsibilities. Like I mentioned earlier,

“Your main focus is to help the success of the conference. Everything else is secondary.”

That’s it! If you see me volunteering at a conference in the Bay Area, make sure you come up to me and say hi, or tweet me here. Good luck on your future events!

Degreed

Today we are proud to announce a $21 million Series B investment to fuel further expansion. The new investment will fuel continued growth of lifelong learning and skills measurement for companies and professionals. Jump Capital led the round, along with Signal Peak, Rethink Education, Deborah Quazzo and other existing investors.

Degreed is free for individuals to use and our learner-first approach led to rapid corporate success following the launch of our consumer-friendly, enterprise learning solution in fall 2014. Our award-winning platform enables people to discover, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning–from internal portals, external training vendors and over 1,200 providers of free and low-cost informal learning resources–all in a single, unified system.

“We believe there are many pathways to expertise,” says David Blake, Co-Founder & CEO “The future doesn’t care how you became an expert. We have built the only universal way for everyone to measure all learning and pursue skills and knowledge from all avenues. It’s changing the way companies think about learning and development.”

This investment comes on the heels of a Series A funding, announced in April 2015. The capital enabled a more aggressive sales strategy, robust product innovations, and an expansion of marketing activities. As a result, we accelerated from three to nearly 100 clients this last year, including Fortune 10, 20 and 50 clients from the financial services and technology industries.

“There are many companies innovating in the edtech space, but Degreed stands unique in its approach to the future of skills and recognition of learning,” said Michael McMahon, Managing Partner of Jump Capital. “We’re excited to partner with Degreed to accelerate their incredible growth, and to change the way learning is done and how it is recognized.”

Learn more at degreed.com

After experiencing an array of job titles within the past four years, I have come to a sudden halt as I was recently let go from a job for the first time in my professional career. At first, I felt like a complete failure. I had absolutely no clue as to what my next move would be and in fact, I’m still figuring it out. But in this past month, I have truly gained insight towards the importance of staying productive and making sure that I don’t fall too far from where I was or lose track of where I want to be. So, here are 7 ways to learn and stay productive when you’re in-between jobs.

Ways to Learn in Between Jobs

1. Stay on top of the latest news.

Read books. Read trending articles. Watch TedTalks. Get updates via social media. Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t fall behind on what is going on within your field. Today’s news is extremely fast-paced and constantly evolving due to the convenient access of information online. It’s important to stay in the know so that you can be ready for whatever opportunity comes your way.

2. Go to industry events.

A great way to get in the live action of what is going on within your field is by physically attending industry events. It’s one thing to just stay active online, but showing up in person is a whole other experience. Not only is it a great way to meet new people, but it’s also inspiring and motivating to directly learn from professionals within your industry.

3. Consult with others.

Just because you no longer work at your past companies doesn’t mean you should lose touch with your former colleagues. Check in with them and catch up with the people in your network every once in a while. Your network is one of your strongest resources for potential jobs or making new connections to other opportunities.

4. Online learning.

The beauty of technology is that we are able to access knowledge in a way that we never have been able to in the past. Online learning opens doors to information on whichever concentrated skill you desire to learn. If you’re in between jobs or just considering a career change, online learning gives you the ability to pursue further education, like learning a new skill, from the comfort of your own computer.

5. Write your ideas down.

Try to keep a journal in order to log any ideas that may pop into your head. Writing is an excellent form of expression and can help you organize your thoughts when you are feeling lost and confused. Creating lists of your strengths and weakness or likes and dislikes in a job can help you get a better sense of direction before making your next move.

6. Freelance.

One thing that I have personally learned from freelancing is that it offers a variety of great opportunities including a source of additional income, flexible work hours, and exposure amongst potential employers or other work opportunities. Once you have mastered your craft, whether it be UX design, coding, or writing, freelancing is a great way to practice and refine your skill set which will ultimately benefit you in the long run as a professional.

7. Get back into the hobbies you love.

Time off doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. When I was let go, I was initially in a state of panic, but it eventually turned into relief. I learned that a break is like a rest period after completing a marathon. It takes time to decompress and recover. I also learned that during this time, it’s important to stay on top of your game both within the playing field as well as off of the playing field. Take the time to rediscover your hobbies and interests because you never know what it could lead to. The things you are passionate about can turn into a fulfilling career, leading you in a direction that you never expected. Embrace the journey and tweet me to tell me your great ideas for ways to learn and staying productive in-between jobs.

7 ways to learn in between jobs

Keep learning! Degreed is free forever, you can get credit for what you know, all the learning you’re currently doing, and find more ways to learn with over 1200 content providers. Click the “add to degreed” button below to get credit for this article and Check it out Degreed here. You can catch Lindsey on Twitter and Degreed.

1984 wasn’t just a dystopian novel by George Orwell, it was also the year Richar Saul Wurma materialized his idea for bringing technology, education and design together into a unique learning experience called TED. Now TED talks touch on almost every topic imaginable. One of my favorite additions to the TED family is TED-Ed. These are short, animated videos that dissect a thought-provoking topic in an easy-to-digest lesson. Writing this particular article took me longer than I anticipated, mostly because TED-Ed videos are addicting. But eventually your mind becomes numb and unable to be hold anymore, and that’s when you watch one more and call it a day.

The following six videos are some of my favorites from TED-Ed. But just a word of warning: you may want to make sure you have some time to kill before you start because it will be hard to stop with just one or two videos.

First up is one that was just recently uploaded to the TED-Ed channel. It dives into the science of snowflakes, which is pretty fascinating. If you have ever wondered why snowflakes are different than ice even though they are both just frozen water, or if the rumor that no two snowflakes are the same is true, this is a worthwhile watch.

1. The science of snowflakes

 

It’s hard to drive anywhere in this world we live in without seeing a car tagged with a 26.2 sticker or one of the many other humble-bragging variants. There are also more varieties of 5k races than there are jelly beans (that may or may not actually be true.) Either way, running is popular. And that means treadmills are out there being put to good use. But did you know the treadmill has a rather dark past? And have you ever wondered why it’s called a treadmill? The early days of the treadmill was nothing like today’s cardio cinema, and this TED-Ed video will show you exactly why.

2. The treadmill’s dark and twisted past

 

If you’ve ever listened to the smash-hit podcast, Serial, you’re well aware of the inherent problems with the human memory. It’s almost impossible to remember specific details of things that happened even two weeks ago. Do you remember what you ate for lunch two Tuesdays ago? If you do, do you know why you remember? This video explains the science behind how memories are stored as well as how they are lost in our minds.

3. How memories form and how we lose them

 

Have you ever wondered why left-handed people are far less common than right-handed people? What’s interesting about handedness is that left-handed people have been far less common than right-handed people for the last 500,000 years. You would think that over time lefties would begin to catch up to righties, right? Well the reason lefties still only make up about 10% of the population is a little more involved than you might think.

4. Why are some people left handed?

 

These last two videos are a bit different than the previous four. These are lessons in philosophy.

This first video is deep, but will still leave enough of your mind unblown so that it can be sufficiently blown with the next video.

5. How do you know you exist?

 

How do we know that what we are experiencing is reality? Do we discount the knowledge of others because we are ignorant, or are other people ignorant to the truth that we know? This one will really get your head spinning.

6. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Hopefully at least one of these videos served as a springboard for you to explore more from TED or TED-Ed. It’s pretty remarkable that we live in a time where so much knowledge is readily presented and available at our fingertips. You should definitely be taking advantage of that. Don’t forget to record what you learned by clicking the “add to Degreed” button below, and check out the newly redesigned Degreed.com!

It’s been a busy year at Degreed. In 2015 we attended, sponsored, and exhibited at a total of 30 events, ran 20 webinars, and had countless discussions on the future of learning- and we’re only getting started.  We’re looking forward to another year of pushing the conversation around the evolution of learning and development (L&D) and the opportunity leaders have to create true learning cultures within organizations. So, with our eyes forward on 2016, here’s a look back at all the love we received in 2015 (thanks, y’all):

 

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Head over to get.degreed.com to learn more about what we’re up to.

Whether by choice or by circumstance, millions of people call the endless concrete jungle of New York City home. For some, the streets of New York are brutal and unforgiving, for others, they’re a place where you feel brand new—according to a Mr. Jay-Z. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that the world slowly began to see how deeply inspiring the people who walk those streets really are.

NewYorkCity-HumansofNewYork

Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York because he wanted to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers. After only a few months he realized that he was just scratching the surface of a more meaningful project. He began interviewing the people he photographed and transcribing the stories they told. The stories he would gather got deeper and deeper as people shared their greatest fears, struggles and successes. What is fascinating about his project is how relevant and powerful a single first-hand story can become.

Two years prior to the launch of HONY, on the 5th floor of the BBC building in London, Aamer Ahmed Khan and his crew were working on a way to tell a relevant and powerful story- the story of the Taliban’s malicious presence in Pakistan. They wanted to find out exactly what it was like for schoolgirls in the Swat Valley. Khan and his team eventually landed on the risky idea of finding a young girl in the area and publishing her personal experiences. Like Stanton, Khan and company wanted to illustrate the situation in Swat in the most powerful way they knew how–using a firsthand account.

The Swat Valley is located on the northwestern end of Pakistan. The natural landscape of that area would make any wanderlusting, authentic-living, #optoutsiding adventurer swoon.

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Though relatively peaceful now, Swat was once a place where decapitated bodies were left in the streets as a macabre message meant to incite fear. Beginning in 2007, the Taliban took control of the valley. During their control, the Taliban bombed hundreds of schools, and girls were not allowed to pursue any kind of education. One Swat Valley local who was particularly devastated by the education restriction was a young girl named Malala Yousafzai.


Education is Human

Named after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine, Malala seemed destined for greatness from day one. Her father ran a school in Swat and was a notable advocate for education. He would raise his daughter with a strong love of learning that would eventually become her life.

In 2009, the Taliban’s ban on girls going to school was enforced on Malala’s school. In her book, I Am Malala, she explains why the Taliban was against education.

“The Taliban is against education because they think that when a child reads a book or learns English or studies science he or she will become Westernized.” Malala’s rebuttal to that reasoning is quite profound. “Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

L&D-Malala

 

If you haven’t already, stop and think about what Malala is saying. If education is human, then to learn is to be alive. If our freedom to learn is taken away, then we are no better off than if we were dead. With that logic, the right to education is worth losing your life over because the alternative is no better than death.


I Am Afraid

At about this same time, Khan and his team from the BBC were in contact with their local correspondent, Abdul Hai Kakar. Kakar knew Malala’s father and enlisted his help in the search for a schoolgirl to share her experiences. Eventually Malala caught wind of Kakar’s search and expressed her interest in helping to her father.

Though it was risky, Malala’s father agreed to let her write about her experiences. For safety reasons, she penned her entries under the pseudonym, Gul Makai, which is the name of another Pashtun heroine. On January 3, 2009, at the age of 11, Gul Makai published her first entry titled, I AM AFRAID. It wasn’t long before her posts started drawing a lot of attention.

Malala only blogged for the BBC for a little over a month, but the popularity of her posts led her to drop her anonymity and speak out in opposition of the Taliban’s rules on local TV and radio shows. Despite death threats, she continued speaking out and was even featured in a New York Times documentary.

After three years of verbal attacks on the Taliban, Malala found herself face to face with her enemy. On October 9, 2012, as Malala was on her way home from school, a masked gunman got on her bus and shot her in the head. Incredibly, after months of recovery, Malala survived the attack. Since then, her voice has only become louder. She won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and continues to advocate for girls’ rights to education in all parts of the world.

The cover of Malala's book, "I Am Malala"

The cover of Malala’s book, “I Am Malala”


Never Stop Learning

Most of us will never have to stand up for our own education to the extent Malala did. And on some level, I think that’s a tragedy. Hear me out.

I don’t think we’d all be better off if we were threatened with our lives every time we went to school or looked up a how-to video on YouTube. But I do think that it’s easy to take something for granted if we never have to evaluate just how important it is in comparison to our life. Malala mentions something to this effect in her book:

“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is.”

As humans, we understand the idea of this principle—that we appreciate things more when they are gone—but experience is the only way to truly grasp the whole of it. So without anyone threatening to take away our freedom to learn, it’s almost too easy to become lackadaisical and take our access to education for granted.

So how do we train ourselves to seek knowledge like our lives depend on it? I’m not sure. I think that’s something we each have to learn on our own. Like Malala so boldly showed us, we have to be diligent in taking responsibility for our own learning. We have to constantly remind ourselves how important education is even when no one is taking away our pens. Because without education, life is wasted.

Degreed is proud to announce a new partnership with getAbstract, a company that joins us as a leading provider of next-generation enterprise learning and development solutions.

This partnership will help employers power a culture of continuous, lifelong learning and career growth, as it will provide mutual customers with seamless, single sign-on access to getAbstract’s valuable compressed knowledge library. The library includes more than 10,000 summarized business books, economic reports and video talks, through Degreed’s revolutionary learning engagement platform, which enables people to discover, curate, share, track and value all learning – from internal systems, external vendors and over 1,200 providers of open, informal learning resources – all in one place.

“People want learning and development opportunities that aren’t just relevant to their jobs once in a while, but that help them grow and develop their careers every day,” said David Blake, Degreed’s founder and CEO. “More than 70 percent of workers we’ve surveyed say they learned something useful for their job from an article, a video or a book in the last 24 hours. And many of our customers are either already using getAbstract to empower their people do that – or they’re asking for it,” he added.

“Employers, however, need new, different solutions to enable everyday learning,” added getAbstract, Inc. CEO, Michel Koopman. “Half of the global workforce doesn’t feel like they have opportunities to learn and grow at work. That’s partly because most L&D tools, content, technology and processes were designed to deliver old-fashioned, occasional training. Companies are gravitating to Degreed,” he said, “because it’s the first enterprise learning solution built for the way people really learn now – continuously, on-the-job.”

The partnership will not only fuel everyday learning, career growth and employee engagement for workers, it will also simplify implementation and workflows for L&D professionals. Integrating getAbstract’s high-quality summaries and videos with Degreed’s innovative content ecosystem and pathway authoring tools will give instructional designers and training managers a faster, more powerful and more cost-effective toolkit for curating both informal and structured, formal learning experiences.

Learn more about Degreed here.

Degreed is honored to receive the Gold Award from the Brandon Hall Group for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology, and the Silver award for Learning Provider of the Year at the LPI awards in London.

 

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The Brandon Hall Group Gold Award capped a year of strong recognition for Degreed in 2015, with awards and honors from industry leaders like Training Industry, DILA, ELearning Magazinethe Learning and Performance Institute, ELearning by Craig Weiss, and Getting Smart. The Silver Award from the Learning and Performance Institute is a strong start for 2016 and is the first award of the year for Degreed.

“People don’t just learn once-in-a-while, from structured, formal training. We also learn every day, informally, through self-directed and social learning. If you really want a culture of continuous development, you need it all.” said CEO David Blake, “Degreed helps people discover, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning – from anywhere – all in one place. So L&D teams can spend less time managing and more time empowering.”

The Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Award was given by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, and Brandon Hall Group senior analysts and executives who evaluated the entries based upon the criteria of product, unique differentiators, value proposition, and measurable results. Degreed was also in attendance at the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence awards.

“These award-winning solutions were closely evaluated by our judges for not only their innovation, but the real results they brought to the organizations,” Brandon Hall Group Chief Executive Office Mike Cooke said. “That is what makes our technology awards program special – connecting creativity and innovation to direct business results.”

Degreed is a learning engagement solution that empowers people to find, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning in a single, unified system. Degreed streamlines corporate learning, both for L&D professionals and employees, by integrating internal systems and paid, external vendor content with the world’s largest ecosystem of free, open and low-cost informal learning resources. Click here to learn more.

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“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato

As a kid, I always dreamt of what it would be like to be free from the rule of my parents. Even though my parents were super chill, it was their job to provide a supervised environment in which I could learn and grow, and that meant establishing boundaries. As I got older and more knowledgeable, my parents would slowly trust me with more freedoms. But in the back of my mind, I was always incredibly curious about what things would be like when I could leave that supervised environment and enjoy a freedom not previously known.

I remember vividly that day I moved out to go to college. My parents dropped me off, and I realized I probably needed to go shopping. I had never shopped entirely for myself. So with this new freedom I bought six boxes of name-brand cereal, a gallon of milk and a 12-pack of Mountain Dew. I was out of my parent’s house, and I no longer had to subject my advanced palate to the garbage off-brand cereal they bought. And bonus, there was no one around to tell me I couldn’t enjoy a cold Mountain Dew with a bowl of cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was as free as an AOL Online disk at Walmart in 1997. Things were great.

I believe testing the limits of our freedoms is natural. It’s why we stay out till 3am even when we know we have work at 8. Or why we convince ourselves that we deserve a nap after work even though we haven’t been to the gym in a week, or two, or ten…. They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but how do you REALLY know unless you try?

 

The Importance of Self-Discipline

While it’s fine to test the limits of our freedom, we need to realize that we can never get everything we want if we don’t become our own parents. I guess you could call that having self discipline. There is real power in using our freedom to put constraints on ourselves.

“Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear—and doubt.”

– Harvey Dorfman

Sure, you can stay out till 3am every night—there’s no one telling you not to—but if you’re trying to land a promotion at work, is that really the best use of your freedom? Give yourself a bedtime, and give an early morning routine a try.

Self-discipline is so hard to establish because it goes against the very nature of our society today. Everywhere you go the cries of the lazy and ignorant are cheering for you to be lazy and ignorant with them. It makes them feel better about their own laziness if everyone else is ignoring their own personal potential too. Every day we are thrown on the front lines of a battle to give in to the natural temptations of instant gratification. Sleeping in feels MUCH better than dragging ourselves out of bed and into the gym… or that’s what our body will tell us as we lie in bed. So how do we fix that?

Becoming More Disciplined

Sure, we can talk about becoming more self-disciplined until we’re blue in the face, but how do we actually do it? Here are three tips to help you as you strive to become more self-disciplined.

1. Establish A Goal

A goal will give you an idea of what kind of constraints you need to put on your life. It will make it easier to set those constraints because you understand what the outcome will be from your efforts. If you don’t have a clearly defined goal, you will find it extremely hard to break out of your bad habits.

2. Commit to Action

I am a firm believer in the things that can be accomplished when we commit to something. It’s like all the rules change when you decide for yourself that you are going to commit. No one can do this for you. This is something you have to come to by yourself. If you’re having trouble committing, reevaluate your goals and make sure they really reflect what you want in life. If they don’t, you’ll have a lot of trouble committing to them.

3. Practice Positive Self-Talk

The mind controls what the body does. When you’re feeling low and ready to call it quits, give yourself a quick pep talk. Positive affirmations are basically one-line pep talks. Thousands of successful people have daily affirmations that get them pumped and ready to take on the world. If it helps, write down a few of your own affirmations and memorize them so you can remind yourself what you are working for when things get tough.

If you start with these three things, you’ll be well on your way to living a better, more accomplished life. For example, I set a goal to be healthier, so I no longer use my freedom to eat cereal with a cold Mountain Dew three times a day. Even though it was fun and exciting to begin with, my health is more important than a temporary pleasure. And though I still struggle to be a good parent to myself in other areas, no one is perfect. There’s no shame in taking it one thing at a time.

 

What are your tricks for being more self-disciplined? Tweet them to me at @bradensthompson, and follow me on Degreed here. Click the button below to get credit for reading this article.

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