After graduating from college, I worked at a learning & development consulting company called Mind Gym. The goal of Mind Gym is to promote lifelong learning in the workplace, and to teach people to think differently. One of Mind Gym’s beliefs suggests that people choose how they think – and with a little exercise of the mind, we can choose to think up some pretty awesome, positive things. Consequently, our life at work and at home can change drastically, allowing us to be more productive in all aspects. But for the most part, people think in rigid, repetitive ways. Go to work, go home, eat, go to sleep, do it all again. For a lot of people, maybe the actual work they do is repetitive, and they see no point to changing how they think. Mind Gym, and this week’s readings, would totally disagree – and so do I!
While the readings for this week focus mainly on education in the form of schooling, so much of it can be applied to work settings. My belief, and Mind Gym’s, is that learning should not end when “formal” education ends. We can’t just graduate from college and stop learning. You got a job that suits you perfectly? Great. Does that mean you’ve peaked? I hope not! And for those who don’t want or don’t have the opportunity to graduate from any formalized educational system, how are we making sure they’re still learning? At Mind Gym, most of the learning centers around people. The learning Mind Gym promotes isn’t math or writing or languages (though it certainly helps to stay on top of those things). Instead, the focus is on how we interact with people at work and how we reflect on ourselves. Are we kind, inclusive, and understanding of others? And are we thinking about our own needs and developmental goals? Without this mindset, we’re more likely to fall back in to routine ways of thinking, back to that “go to work, go home, eat, go to sleep, do it all again” mindset.
I could go on and on about my thoughts on mindful learning, lifelong learning, out-of-classroom learning, etc. . But my biggest take away from working at Mind Gym is simple and concise, and something that Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown mention in “A New Culture of Learning”. It’s also something I try to remember as I work towards a degree in higher education. Learning isn’t the new idea you came up with, or the formula you’ve memorized, or the paper you got an A+ on. Learning is a type of citizenship. It’s how you engage with other people and how you strive for personal development that allows you to contribute something to society, no matter how small. “A New Culture of Learning” tells the story of a young boy named Sam who is a talented programmer. To Sam, the most important part of being a programmer isn’t creating new games, it’s being kind to others in his programming community, and providing them with helpful feedback. If we think about formal education in a similar way, as well as learning beyond a formal education, I think people will be more passionate about topics, more likely to remember and utilize things they’ve learned, and they’ll be happier.
So take a minute to exercise your mind – why are you learning the things you’re currently learning? Because you want that A+, or that promotion, or because you know it will benefit you in a meaningful way?
7 Replies to “Mind Gym”
It is always a pleasure to read your blog posts! I loved the questions, you posed for us, the reader, at the end. Sometimes I really do question why we read what the syllabus instructs us to. Besides the small fact that it is a requirement or ‘strongly recommended’, I also question the ‘why?’. Why are we reading this article, by this author, and in this class? Why does their voice matter over others? Of course, these questions usually pop in my head when procrastination kicks in, but also when I can’t connect what I am learning to the big picture. No matter when these questions come, I am glad my brain is developing them because that is an indication that it is exercising!
Your post reminds me of a book I’ve been recommended multiple times (and I’ll be honest only read about half way before it was due back at the library; I am inspired to check it out again) called Mindset by Carol Dweck. The main idea, as much as I can remember, is that if you face challenging problems with an attitude that you can learn new things you will succeed with persistence and hard work. But you have the attitude that you are only good at somethings and do not have the ability to learn new things, you limit yourself and your learning. But all it takes to change this outcome is to change your view on how you learn.
I constantly face this issue with students who are intemidated by simple math we do in my field. Really, percents is the hardest mathematical concept we deal with. But they see numbers and all of a sudden shut down because they think they’re not good at math. What I’m try to teach my student is not really math (they’ve already learned all the math they will need in 7th grade), but the numerical and spatial reasoning to calculate how many tons of manure they will need to apply to a 45 acre field to reach a rate of 10 lbs of phosphorus per acre. Sounds complicated, but there are really only 3 steps. So I’ve been “exercising my mind”, trying to think of new ways to help them learn how to and see that they actually can do this type of problem and succeed in this field.
Hi Bethany, thanks for the comment. Carol Dweck is definitely a major influence on Mind Gym! I also have a book called Mind Gym that was written by the company’s president and CEO. Maybe you can check that out after Mindset, ha!
I really like the idea that learning should not end when “formal” education ends. To me, formal education improves my ability to learn. And then a lot of learnings happen outside the classroom and school.
The motivation for learning must be diverse for different people and also for different subject. I would say I am learning my major because I want to be prepared for my future career. Of course I am involved in some other learning process just for fun.
P.S Mind Gym is an excellent excellent name for a learning & development consulting company.
I agree with everything in this blog post, especially the point highlighted by Chang. I feel like my undergraduate education provided me with all of the tools to effectively learn and then released me on the real world!
The only thing I disagree on is the name Mind Gym; to me it seems to reflect all of the things you denounce!
A gym designates an insular location in which to do work, as if exercise cannot take place anywhere else. This was precisely your gripe against universities, and how learning stops as soon as you leave. Exercise stops as soon as you leave a gym.
Also, ‘repetition’ (ie monotony) seems to be the byword for the gyms that I have frequented, which you acknowledge as a problem for higher education.
Perhaps I am missing something.
“Learning is a type of citizenship.” Absolutely. Learning helps us constitute community, engage participatory cultures, and goes a long way toward making us human. All more significant goals than the “A” on the paper!
Great thoughts here. I agree completely that this type of thought belongs not only in schools but also in the workplace. It reminds me a bit of Headspace, a meditation application that used to go by the tagline “A Gym Membership for the Mind”. They started with individual packs, just started a Students pack more focused on education, and have begun to roll out consulting services at companies across the country. You wouldn’t think meditation could have such an effect on workplace efficiency and dynamics but it is really remarkable when you look at the stats. Aetna conducted a study several years ago and found that mindfulness training saved them thousands of dollar per employee per year based on increased productivity and decreased medical bills!