A group of penguins attended a motivational seminar to help them achieve their full potential. The penguins reasoned that they were birds, and birds fly. So what was stopping them from achieving their potential?

The speaker began, “All you need is the belief that you can fly and the determination to make it happen.” He encouraged them to flap their wings, visualize flight, and repeat affirmations. When one penguin finally flapped his wings fast enough to fly around the conference room, the other penguins saw what was possible, and tried harder. Soon there were penguins flying all over the room. At the end of the training, they were so grateful, they gave the speaker a standing ovation.

When the seminar was over, the penguins walked home.

Why do people begin a new endeavor with excitement, then stall or lose interest a few weeks later? What can you do to sustain interest and successfully complete goals for yourself and for your organization?

The answers reside in understanding both mind maps and brain business. In doing so, you can guide the creation of new success-oriented belief systems and apply new mindsets.

Patterns of New Learning

New learning falls into four phases.

  1. Initial confusion and excitement combine to launch new learning. Awareness of the unfamiliar and uncertain registers as curiosity, or even anxiety, mixed in with the excitement, propelling momentum.

  2. Increasing confidence follows, both with the experience of effectiveness and with positive feedback.

  3. Mastery is the consistent experience of effectiveness and movement to a new level of excitement, validation and into its own self-sustaining “flow.”

  4. Entropy occurs when the excitement and invigoration of the learning curve’s newness and mastery level off or decline. Even a leveling off may register as a lessening of the ever-increasing acquisition of mastery, pleasure and rewards. Disillusionment creeps in, asking:

Understanding Six Learning and Performance Styles

Attitudes that promote curiosity and openness and introduce new learning foster success. Learning is always a choice, a potential creation. There are many different levels of learning, both internal and external.

Scientists used to believe that brain cells and the connections between them were set early in life and did not change in adulthood. In the past decade, that assumption has been drastically disproved. Through advancement in brain imaging and other techniques, we now know that the brain and behavior can be trained, physically modified and functionally transformed. The inner workings and circuitry of the brain change with new experiences.

Neuroplasticity and behavioral change occur within the context of individual styles. Some of these styles that appear more or less hard-wired need to be taken into account for optimum learning and performance.

Self-management involves understanding yourself quite well: your strengths, weaknesses, learning style, working style, needs and values.

Optimum learning and performance occur when you are in a specific state of mind matched to what you are doing. When you operate from your strengths, you optimize the potential for excellence.

In addition to recognizing strengths, knowing how you learn and perform is crucial for success. These learning and performance characteristics are styles; they can be slightly modified, but ultimately must be respected and strategically planned.

1. Readers

Some people learn best by reading and need to see a text or pictures in order to really comprehend material. President John Kennedy was a reader who assembled an outstanding group of writers on his staff. Part of Kennedy’s brilliance was in using these people and what they wrote to inform his decisions.

2. Listeners

President Johnson had attained his reputation and success as a listener. When Johnson kept the same people on his staff after he succeeded Kennedy, they kept on writing. Johnson derailed his presidency by not recognizing that he was a listener, not a reader.

3. Writers

Some people learn best by writing. Beethoven kept copious notes and amassed an enormous number of sketchbooks, yet never looked at them when he composed. When asked about this practice, he said, “If I don’t write it down immediately, I forget it right away. If I put it into a sketchbook, I never forget it and I never have to look it up again.”

4. Talkers

Some people learn best by hearing themselves talk. This is a style I am quite familiar with. A significant portion of the material in my books comes from what I later jot down from teaching, presentations, and mentoring executives—things that came to me in a different way from what I had previously thought or written out. I don’t write because I have something to say, I write to see what I have to say.

5. Collaborators

Some people work best in collaboration with others. Their innovative ideas emerge from working in conjunction with others. Some collaborators work best on a team, and succeed in a system where ideas and implementation occur as part of a group.

6. Loners

Some people work best alone, preferring the purity of concentration and focus that they can achieve only in the quietness of working alone.

Recognizing these predominant styles of learning—and none of them are all-or-nothing—can facilitate team collaboration.

DAVID KRUEGER, M.D. is CEO of MentorPath,
an executive coaching practice serving coaches, entrepreneurs
and healing professionals. Dr. Krueger is author of 11 books on
success, money, work and self-development.