Why is adult learning so hard

Why is it so hard to learn new things?

Putting together a speech for an upcoming keynote and looking for insights about growth and learning, I ran across a quote and the work of Joe Dispenza that describes WHY it’s so hard to learn as an adult:

“Psychologists tell us that by the time we’re in our mid-30s, our identity or personality will be completely formed. This means that for those of us over 35, we have memorized a select set of behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, emotional reactions, habits, skills, associative memories, conditioned responses, and perceptions that are now subconsciously programmed within us. Those programs are running us because the body has become the mind.

This means that we will think the same thoughts, feel the same feelings, react in identical ways, behave in the same manner, believe the same dogmas, and perceive reality the same ways.”

Wow. That really describes what I’ve come to understand about teaching and coaching people.

There were so many snippets from his book, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One,” I ordered it right away and can’t wait for it to arrive.

As someone who is hired to help sales teams enhance their skills and improve performance, I’m always looking for insights about how we’re programmed, why we make decisions, and how we can change or alter our thinking to achieve new outcomes.

My pursuit of this information comes as a result of attempting to change the hearts and minds of adults who hold on to their current status quo as if their lives depend on it!

“When you think from your past memories, you can only create past experiences. As all of the ‘knowns’ in your life cause your brain to think and feel in familiar ways, thus creating knowable outcomes, you continually reaffirm your life as you know it.” – Joe Dispenza

You see, training people is not easy. Convincing people to try new things, change their behaviors and adopt new habits to improve results … is REALLY NOT EASY.

I don’t know what the statistics are (couldn’t find a quote for THIS) but I’d say, 90% of the outcome of a training session depends on the individual and only 10% is about what’s put in front of them.

What I’ve learned is that being an amazing trainer or having mind-blowing content and tools DOES NOT matter if the participants aren’t open to receiving information and changing their existing habits.

However, if you have participants that are eager to learn, open to trying new things, and motivated to change habits, AND they have an amazing trainer that introduces them to mind-blowing content … THEY can create amazing outcomes.

You may have heard me or seen my LinkedIn profile – where I rebuke the term “Sales Training” and prefer to reference adult learning as “Skills Building.”

Nothing against the word or title “Trainer” or “Training” but it’s tied up with the notion that the RESULTS rely on the ability and content of the instructor and NOT really on the participants’ willingness to change their mindset, behaviors, and habits.

By offering “Skills Building” sessions for sellers, the focus shifts to their ability to learn and APPLY what they’ve learned to improve and develop their skill sets.

Training is about products and information, whereas, “Skills Building” is about the individual’s growth by applying what they learn.

Big difference.

So, I study why we think what we think, why we do what we do, and how we become willing to change our thinking and thus our actions … to impact ourselves and our outcomes. This is “Life” skills-building that happens to occur in the form of Sales improvement when I deliver it.

It’s why I’m constantly adding new tweaks and trying new formats to introduce ideas to sales skills sessions. It’s why I blare music mashups as people enter the training room to open them up to new possibilities. It’s how I come to have people do physical activities during skills-building sessions to make things stickier. It’s why I use analogies and stories from coaching volleyball or teaching Girl Scouts – to frame and reframe concepts with tangible and relatable meaning.

The more I learn, the better I get at helping sellers become inspired to think and act in new ways.

It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. Yes, harder than any sales job I’ve had: selling sellers.

So, if you’re a sales pro, or sales leader looking to create different or better results, BEFORE you consider training, consider your team members and if they are open to changing their mindset, actions, and behaviors and then help them invest in building their skills.

“When our behaviors match our intentions, when our actions are equal to our thoughts when our minds and our bodies are working together when our words and our deeds are aligned … there is an immense power behind any individual.” – Joe Dispenza.

Another poignant thought. I can’t wait to get the book for more revelations that I can use in working with my clients and their sales teams!

Until next time, stop hoping and start SELLING!


PS – Want to know more about how we can create unique experiences that help your sales teams grow? Contact us and we can schedule a chat!

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Straightforward, practical and perhaps slightly cheeky, Shawn Karol Sandy's innate gift is helping people find new ways to solve old problems, unique ways to approach new problems and helping businesses re-invent themselves and their sales strategies. With Bold and Brave thought leadership and Clear Action Plans, her impact on business is Measurable and Meaningful and will lead your sales revolution to growth and revenue goals.

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