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Breaking free from professional habits

New Delhi, April 26, 2024
As seasoned professionals, we often pride ourselves on our expertise and accumulated knowledge. However, what if some of that knowledge is holding us back? What if the habits we’ve developed over decades are actually hindering our progress rather than propelling us forward?

My own journey in unlearning, particularly through the lens of my experience with swimming, sheds light on the importance of breaking free from ingrained habits and embracing change in our professional lives.

Allow me to share a personal anecdote that resonates deeply with the concept of unlearning. Despite my passion for swimming, I found myself struggling to improve for over four decades.

It wasn’t because of a lack of effort or determination, but rather because I had learned the wrong techniques at an early age. Swimming alongside friends in a river, I absorbed habits that stuck with me throughout my life, hindering my progress despite my best intentions.

Finally acknowledging the need for change, I enrolled in a beginner’s swimming course. The process of unlearning was arduous; it required me to confront not only physical challenges but also the mental resistance to change.

Watching others progress while I struggled to undo years of ingrained habits was a humbling experience. Yet, with perseverance and dedication, I began to see incremental improvements.

The parallels between my swimming journey and professional life are striking. Just as I had unknowingly absorbed detrimental habits in swimming, so too can we pick up negative behaviours in our careers.

Our first job, and our initial experiences with bosses and colleagues — they all shape our professional identity. Yet, over time, some of these habits can become obstacles to growth and success.

Too often, we attribute our professional challenges to external factors — the current workplace culture, our managers, or the industry itself.

Yet, true growth requires introspection and a willingness to unlearn ingrained behaviours that no longer serve us. It’s about challenging the status quo, breaking free from the comfort of familiarity, and embracing the discomfort of change.

Unlearning is not a one-time event but an ongoing process — one that demands resilience, humility, and self-awareness.

It requires us to confront our own limitations and biases, to question long-held assumptions, and to embrace new perspectives and ways of working. It’s about recognising that the path to success is not always linear, and that failure is an essential part of the learning process.

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the ability to unlearn and relearn is more critical than ever. The skills and knowledge that brought us success in the past may not be sufficient to navigate the challenges of tomorrow. By embracing the art of unlearning, we open ourselves up to new possibilities, innovation, and growth.

Business leaders, I urge you to reflect on your own professional journey. What habits and beliefs are holding you back? What do you need to unlearn in order to reach your full potential? Embrace the discomfort of change, for it is through unlearning that we truly evolve and thrive in an ever-changing world.(Agency)

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