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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 10-May-06


Wednesday 10-May-06

Exams and anchors

I'm an inveterate learner and something of a masochist when it comes to exams. I've always hated them, but I recently found myself sitting in the examination hall yet again, furiously scribbling along with a load of other nutcases. Why? I ask myself as I sit there, racking my brains over minutiae that I thought I'd committed to memory. Why do I do this to myself?

I've a process of persuading myself that the whole thing is good for me, perhaps like nasty medicine (though it's all bland pills these days -- whatever happened to those disgusting brews of yesteryear?). The persuasive conversation with myself goes something like this:

  • You're getting older. The knowledge you have is going out of date.
  • You succeed by being expert. What if some young tyke came along who knew more than you?
  • You're getting bored, too. Why not do something different?
  • How about this? It looks really interesting and could be really useful.
  • You're pretty knowledgeable now, but you've no qualifications in the subject. How will you get a job without qualifications?
  • Don't worry about the exam --it's miles away.

And so I sign up for another course and enter into another set of exams. It's not a rapid process and I don't change subject that often, but over time I've gathered university-level qualifications in engineering, education, management and marketing, and am now deep in the psychology furrow. I have also done significant training in areas from quality management to counselling, NLP, and Tai Chi, plus endless 'industrial' training, from creativity to negotiation. And of course I read non-stop (except when I'm writing) and long ago ran out of places to put the books.

In short, I'm a learning junkie.

A while ago, I found out why. A well-known psychologist called Edgar Schein developed a psychometric instrument (questionnaire to you and me) called 'Career Anchors' that uncover the driving forces that shape your career. For me, it is 'challenge' and 'competence'. In other words, I seek stimulation and challenge, so move into a new area. I find myself inexpert and so beaver away to remedy the situation -- but then, when I am expert enough I get bored and the cycle starts again.

The people and persuasion thing started many years ago and there is still enough in here to keep me going for years to come, so there's no chance of my giving up on But you may notice how I merrily dig into topic after topic. That's my anchors at work!

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