This is the first in an ongoing new series themed around Experience Design Research. Blueboard coworkers will be guest-blogging as we complete personal experience design research projects throughout the year (part of our company anniversary package), in an effort to better understand and embody one of our Core Company Values, "Create an exceptional experience," for every rewarded employee.
One of the trends we’re following in our experience redemption data is the notion of an extended learning journey or self-development experience. More and more, we have employees redeeming their Blueboard rewards for adventures like Play the Guitar (a series of private music lessons), Learn a New Language, Learn to Cook (often a 4-part culinary workshop series), or even pursuing their pilot’s license! Unlike the 13,000-ft Jump, where someone goes through the thrilling but short-lived experience of skydiving, these learning journeys require preparation, commitment, and vulnerability, all over an extended timeline.
Through my own Experience Design Research Project, I’m tackling the RYT 200 (Registered Yoga Teacher 200-hour training), governed by the Yoga Alliance. Becoming a yoga teacher is more than just increasing your fitness; it’s a holistic education of one’s mind, body, and self, while also learning how to effectively communicate with and coach your aspiring students as they pursue their own practice. Not to mention the 200 hours, which are certainly not gathered overnight.
I’m writing this post after completing my first half of the RYT 200 training, 108 hours at a remote resort in the jungles of Bali (not a typo! 108 is a sacred and spiritual number in ancient Hindu philosophy). Are you or someone you love about to embark on your own learning journey? Let’s review a few best practices I’ve picked up through my own transformative experience to hopefully inspire and guide any learning journeys that you’re planning to begin this year:
Whether you’re taking something as short as a two-part workshop, or long as a 1-year intensive course, it’s important to prepare mentally and physically. This starts with mentally weighing the value that the experience will bring you in exchange for the time commitment – the opportunity cost. The experience might offer up an opportunity to advance at work, further develop a passion or hobby, or simply bring you happiness through the experience of self-discovery and learning something new. Regardless, you’ll need to define your mission, and if it seems to fall flat, right now might not be the best time in your life to take on this additional challenge.
When my yoga practice became more serious and completing the RYT 200 moved up my bucket list, I began leaning on my past and present yoga teachers for more information and inquiring into their own training pursuits. Recruit connections for an advisor, grabbing them for a few minutes on the phone or taking them for coffee, and absorb the learnings they’ve gathered through their own journeys. If you don’t already have someone in mind, tap your network by posting for advice on social media, or turn to more public forums like Quora or LinkedIn. This approach brought me to Bali and my current RYT 200 teacher Janet Stone, and helped to shape my overall timeline and budget.
Taking on a learning journey has the potential to impact your personal life, so it’s important to share your plans early with family or significant others, and depending on the situation, with your manager or teammates at work. Your experience may require you to leave work early on certain days (like a good friend of mine who pursued pastry school in the evenings), or take up parts of your weekends and affecting your family routine (like another friend of mine currently pursuing his pilot’s license). Some activities can also be considered dangerous (like the flying license, or running your first marathon), so it’s important to be sensitive to the feelings and emotions of those who love and support you. As you begin scheming, share your ideas, process, and most importantly, why you’re passionate. Be open to their feedback and the possibility of needing to change your plans or timeline.
Once you’ve made the decision to pursue this learning journey, begin to enlist and recruit your fans. When it comes to learning journeys, especially those that are long-term such as yoga teacher training, earning your MBA, or learning a new language, you’ll always have your ups and downs. During these times, you’ll greatly benefit from a core support group who can cheer you on along the way and commiserate with your situation. It also pays to form new relationships with those in your class or cohort, or even seek out additional connections through local meetups, online community boards, or through connected friends of friends. These valuable relationships allow you to continue learning from others and offer you a safe sanctuary to occasionally vent (because let’s be honest, there will be venting).
As your journey begins, savor it. While a degree or achievement can feel like a lifetime away, don’t rush it. Each stage is valuable and builds along the way. Take time to reflect on what you’ve learned to date, and how the experience is meeting or missing your expectations. How can you adjust elements along the way to make the experience even better? Notice what has changed about yourself to date, even if the change is small. Schedule a recurring timeslot in your calendar to make sure that you check in along the way (maybe weekly on Sundays, biweekly, or for us yogis, on the full moon), and make a practice of journaling during these moments of reflection.
Research shows that humans need positive reinforcement and progress to feel happy. So with these long-term learning journeys, it’s important to celebrate your small wins and achievements along the way. Map out your key timeline milestones to celebrate progress towards completion, or make a list of the abilities, tasks or achievements that, in your mind, signal success. Once you start making progress, grab your squad and celebrate! For example, show off the first non-terrible clay pot thrown in your pottery class to your coworkers at the office (“That’s right, this one’s going on the desk...”), or gift your first proud watercolor painting to your Grandma (trust us, she’ll love it). Grab margaritas when you can speak your first complete sentence in Spanish (“Por favor, me gustaría una cerveza?”), or invite friends over for dinner as you master the appetizers portion of your Italian cooking course.
Taking on a learning journey is not easy, and you’ll inevitably question your commitment (time, financial, and otherwise) along the way. This brings us back to step one – remember and reflect on the benefits you’re gaining through this experience; how it will further enrich your life, how it will bring you a fulfilling sense of accomplishment, and the deeper relationship you’ll build with yourself through the path of self-discovery. As we like to say at Blueboard, “The view is worth the climb.” So stay strong and focused, and we’re always here to help.
If you’re currently on your own learning journey, I’d love your feedback and advice for our readers in the comments section below. What are you exploring, and how is the experience changing you?
And if you’re a passionate manager looking to offer the gift of a learning journey to your top employees, let’s talk. We offer a variety of learning journey experiences for employees to choose from in our Experiences Catalog, and, through our Concierge service, coordinate all of their logistics to get their journey off and running. Simply complete the orange Request Demo button up top to get the conversation going.