This morning I was thinking about the daily barrage of online courses I am offered and how they relate to a breakthrough I had in one of those courses. You know the offers I am referring to — you go to a website to see how to cook tofu and soon you’re offered 5 free lessons to Cook Your Way to Better Health in exchange for your email address? Sometimes, I’m actually looking for a free summary of a topic, or free lessons, so don’t mind the offers when they aren’t intrusive. (At least, let me get through the first article, please!)
I have no shame admitting I’ve signed up for plenty of free and paid online courses. I imagine I’m not alone, or they wouldn’t be so abundant. Some of the free courses have been useful, and others not so much, but so far, all of the paid ones I’ve invested in have been worthwhile. That’s because I am cautious before spending money.
I want to feel like I know what the person is about, what her teaching style is, and if she can deliver on her promises.
I’ve usually been on the person’s email list for a while, taken her free courses, if any, and consumed whatever free content is on her website.
I feel like it’s my responsibility to do my research before I buy. I want to find a good fit for me — one that provides the information I seek in a style I can learn from and will enjoy. The teacher has a responsibility to explain the content of the course, what I should learn, the format, be consistent in style and content with her other materials, and follow through on her promises. It’s an exchange and both parties have their roles the fulfill.
This brings me back to the thoughts I had and the personal breakthrough I mentioned earlier.
I think too many of us don’t take real responsibility for our own personal development and education.
One article I found cites a poll indicating that 96% of personal development efforts fail. Some of this is about procrastination and lack of follow-through, but that is a different topic. What I am focused on for the moment is that too often people start an online course, get partway through, start complaining that it is too tedious, or the material applies to other people but not them, or the Facebook group is too chatty/boring/basic, or whatever removes responsibility from the person himself. I really believe this is a problem a lot of people have with any kind of course, class, convention or even meetings. Despite my diligence in choosing only courses I believe will be worthwhile to me, I still fell victim to this. You might even recognize a bit of yourself here.
Last year, I took Benjamin Hardy’s year-long personal development/productivity course called 52 Weeks of Momentum, which is now called AMP (Accelerated Momentum Program). It was really worthwhile and I enjoyed that Benjamin was responsive to his student’s needs and kept adapting and improving the course based on student feedback. (No, I am not an affiliate. It was simply a great course. I even convinced my wife to take it this year.)
I reached a point around the end of March where I was not enjoying the course as much as I had been. I was feeling resistant to the materials and reluctant to do the homework.
I wrote the following post to our course’s private Facebook group and got tons of positive feedback from others feeling similarly. My post was kept at the top of the group’s page for weeks so others could benefit from my experience.
* * *
I had a breakthrough this morning, and in case others are feeling the same way, I wanted to share my experience. I have been feeling resistant to some of the course materials, feeling like I was just reading the required books to check off my “to-do” box, and same with some of the homework assignments. Was it just my own habits kicking and screaming as I made changes, or were my concerns legitimate? Thanks to conversations with my accountability partner, my wife, and myself through journaling, I think I have figured it out.
I realized that it is my responsibility to get out of the course what I need. We are all at such different stages in life, there is no way the same exercises and books are going to be meaningful for all of us. We have different needs, goals and even different learning styles. I have given myself permission to absorb “required reading” in whatever way works for me. Sometimes, I will probably only read summaries online. The concepts so far tend to be fairly repetitive and based on principles I am already familiar with, but not everyone is. Same with assignments. I will do them, but I need to do them in a way that provides value to me. It’s not like Benjamin needs me to do them in a certain way! So, if I have to tweak the assignment a bit so I find value, I think that is the real intent.
I have been doing self-awareness, self-improvement, and goal setting work in a meaningful way for the past few years. I know the behaviors I need to improve and what I want to accomplish this year, and beyond, in some cases. For me, this course is about staying motivated, getting into the flow more easily, and accomplishing goals in faster, more efficient ways. So, I need to be looking for those things, and not getting caught up in the lessons that don’t apply to me.
Benjamin is supplying us with tons of value and remarkable tools. It’s like he is giving us tools to build an entire resort hotel, but all I need are the ones to build a nice pool with a swim-up bar. I have the hotel already, and I don’t need a gift shop right now.
I feel better now about moving forward, always keeping not just my own goals for life in mind, but also my goals for this course. I am the one responsible for making sure I get value from the abundance of materials Benjamin is providing. I will remember that the homework is supposed to help me design the life I want, not to earn credit or get a good grade.
I am in no way saying not to do the assignments we are given, just saying that for me, I need to do them mindfully and look for the tools that will be most useful for where I am in my life and what I wanted from this course. I hope this helps someone else who is struggling.
* * *
Getting what you need out of any course, finding what is useful for where you are now — as opposed to where others are or where you might be in six months — is up to you.
It might take effort and thought instead of allowing yourself to be spoon-fed, but it will be worth it.* Now that I look at this more closely, this applies to much of life. How often have I just shown up, checked the boxes, and moved on without really digesting the material or the experience? I have a responsibility to myself to find value where there is opportunity and not just start complaining as soon as I feel my expectations are not being met. Sometimes being flexible with my expectations opens up a new world of possibility.
* This assumes the course is providing valuable content in a professional way. If it’s not, ask for your money back.