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If You Want to Grow, Cultivate a Teachable Spirit

By John C. Maxwell | January 15, 2019
If You Want to Grow, Cultivate a Teachable Spirit

We’re now well into 2019 and I love the optimism that people have about their goals. There’s still plenty of talk about making those resolutions stick. Social media posts abound of people hitting the gym or making other changes to their daily routine in order to make this year different from last.

I love this time of year because people are so intentional about goals, and one of the greatest shifts any leader can make is moving from goals to growth. In fact, it’s one of the 11 shifts I teach in my upcoming book, Leadershift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace, which releases on February 5.

I want to capitalize on this “new year, new you” momentum to share one of the secrets to sustained personal development: a teachable spirit.

It may sound hokey, but the truth is that growth is only possible when we are willing to adapt a teachable spirit. That means having a passion to learn, possessing an intention to learn daily, and reflecting on what we’re learning to know how to apply it.

Picture your personal growth as a garden—nothing that grows in a garden springs to life on its own. Gardens require planning, cultivation, and the right environment. As the gardener, you must be willing to prepare the soil, sow the seeds, water, feed, mulch and weed. It’s an intentional process—and it must happen every day.

So how can we cultivate a growth environment, our own development garden?

By adapting a teachable spirit. When we’re willing to seek out and learn lessons from others, from experience, and from reflection, then we’re able to increase our capacity for growth.

Here are five practices I’ve adopted to help me keep a teachable spirit:

1. I Make Growth My Number One Priority

After forty years, I’ve come to understand that everything I do is predicated on my personal growth. Every opportunity I have is the result of my commitment to stretching and growing myself every day. A day without growth is not good for me or for the people I lead—so I put growth at the top of my priority list daily.

2. I Look for Growth Possibilities in Every Situation

When you’re intentional about growth, you come to realize that you’re surrounded by growth opportunities every day. George Bernard Shaw said, “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” That’s so true—when you get intentional about growth, you discover that good or bad, up or down, there are opportunities for you to grow in every situation. The key is looking for them.

3. I Ask Questions That Will Help Me Grow

Growth doesn’t come looking for you—you have to go and find it. That means being willing to step outside yourself by asking questions of the people and situations that surround you. The fastest way to find out what we don’t know is to ask questions. The best way to deepen our understanding is to ask questions. Questions are the keys that open hearts and minds—especially our own.

4. I Keep Track of What I Have Learned

In my book, Leadershift, this actually says, “I file what I have learned”, but not everyone is a fan of filing the way I am. But whether you file, journal, or record memos, the point is the same: if you don’t create a system for capturing what you’re learning, you’ll lose it. My filing system allows me to access what I’ve learned repeatedly so I can layer my learning and expand my growth.

5. I Share What I’ve Learned with Others

It’s one thing to glean a truth, it’s another thing to teach it. When you pass on what you learn to someone else, you make that lesson your own. It also multiplies the impact of what you’ve learned because it helps someone else…and they can use your words to add value to others.


If you’re fresh into this year and are finding the goals you’ve set have given you an appetite for more, then this post is what you need.

You’re ready to make the shift from goals to growth—and you’ll find a teachable spirit a reliable way to make that transition one that lasts.

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