Learning Energy: For Self-Mastery

There are two managerial or personal Team Leadership Services (TLS) Profiles in which this concept has been coined. The first is the Leadership Development Profile http://www.tls360.com/webpages/products/ldp.aspx in which we have used it as a ‘self-score’ or measure. Subjects rate sixty four positive leadership attributes in terms of the extent to which they exert ‘learning energy’ in the area described by the questionnaire item. The idea is that this then creates priorities and coaching advice for that subject in their personal profile.

The second profile, however, is the 360 degree ‘Emotional and Social Intelligence Profile’ (ESI) in which ‘Learning Energy’ is explored as a ‘Self Mastery’ capability, one of twelve explored in the profile. http://www.tls360.com/webpages/products/esi.aspx

In this second profile 'Learning Energy' is described as the degree of preparedness to exert energy to acquire knowledge, insight or skill. High energy is argued as being derived by consciously combining emotion, self-awareness, resilience and thought. Individuals use the energy of their emotions to stimulate creative thinking to learn something new and then generate new perceptions and behaviours that more effectively satisfy needs, wants and goals.

Learning Energy Components

As the definition above implies it is essential to have self-insight and in particular to harness one's emotions as the engine from which energy to learn is derived. It is often sparked by emotions when reflecting on successes and failures. The person who is energised by learning from past experience and feedback opportunities will be more self-assured about where they are today, be more likely to be energised to go somewhere else, or be keener to put effort into new development opportunities. With this confidence comes a preparedness to take calculated risks and be motivated to pursue fresh ideas and knowledge.

In considering one's own personal development some opportunities will appeal intuitively, since they fit some in-built interest, goal, or preference, whereas others may be stimulated by some career ladder, external pressure or natural next step.

Two other related ideas can also assist our understanding of our learning energy levels. These are Maslow's 'Hierarchy of Needs' model and 'Spiral Dynamics'. As individuals become secure in themselves and have basic and affiliation need satisfaction, they look to achieving and learning more to a level of 'self-actualisation' or realisation of their full potential. Spiral dynamics adds the notion of acceleration as one moves up the learning levels spiral.

Also over time there is a tendency for individuals not only to learn something new incrementally, but also to develop process knowledge of how best to learn – a sort of double loop learning. People become observers of themselves, asking, "what's going on here? what are the patterns?" The process can look something like this:

  • our choice of learning topics is governed by our hierarchy of needs, goals and aspirations;
  • experience and reflection (of both emotions and thoughts) often leads to new knowledge, insight or skill;
  • multiple learning events lead to an understanding of patterns, such that individuals know how to learn more effectively; and
  • enhanced learning technique encourages optimism and positive emotions which leads to a spiralling of learning energy.

An even higher level of learning is 'Triple-Loop Learning'. This learning goes beyond insight and patterns to context, or to what is appropriate. The result creates a shift in understanding of our context or point of view. This deeper level of insight can produce new commitments by challenging us to understand how problems and solutions are related, even when separated widely by time and space. It also challenges us to understand how our previous actions created the conditions that led to current circumstances.

How can you develop your own learning energy?

Some specific tips include:

  • Know yourself and be sure to understand what you don’t know.
  • In particular work with objectives that are clear and close at hand. Ensure that when achieved these objectives close the gap in your mind between where you are today and your ideal standard.
  • Keep an open mind and develop further your natural optimism and curiosity. Build on your resilience and use set-backs to learn from.
  • Relearn old lessons and create new and innovative applications to present conditions.
  • Look for the patterns in yourself. Why does it work so well sometimes and other times not so well? Use a combination of 'facts' and 'feelings' to uncover those insights.
  • Build in time for reflection on important matters. This is where the insights and energy will spark.
  • Develop a means of capturing your ideas and progress such that you can review and develop connections and further insights.
  • Engineer opportunities to work alongside people who have competencies that will stretch you.
  • Take those calculated risks and don’t be afraid to get it wrong.
  • Learn also from those who cause you pain. They are also the springboards to greater knowledge.
  • When faced with feedback beware of the defensive response. Ask "what can I learn?" not "how can I protect my image?"


Challenge yourself (and or your clients) and ask the question ‘Am I (are they) enthusiastically enough crafting; developing; realising and mastering my (their) intentions, emotions, tendencies and capacities to realise my (their) full potential?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then the concept of learning energy in the ESI model is worth considering. We each may commit different levels of energy towards acquiring knowledge, insight and skill. In part this is governed by a personality predisposition, but can also be increased through focus and effort on a number of processes and behaviours. So whatever an individual’s innate learning energy, in the quest for self-mastery, there are ways in which individuals can 'turn up their energy volume'.

Authors Details:

Telephone: 02 833 26138;
Mobile/Cell: 04 10713879;
Email: paul@tls360.com
Web: www.tls360.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulrobinsontls
Suite 12, Level 1, 488 Botany Road, Alexandria, NSW 2015, Australia

Dr Paul Robinson

Paul Robinson