7 Learning Habits to Thrive in a Chaotic World

David Shindler is a coach, facilitator, speaker, and blogger on jobs, careers and employability development. He is also the author of “Learning to Leap, a Guide to Being More Employable”.

A paradigm shift is happening today about the meaning of work, what a job is, what it means to be an employee and the changing nature of a working life. We are working and living longer, so it’s crazy to think of education as a single decade at the beginning of our lives when we might have seven or eight more!

Different employment patterns are emerging as the gig economy shows. We don’t yet know the full implications of artificial intelligence and automation on jobs. All of us may have multiple careers instead of staying in the same place for years.

What does this mean for your learning? What will help you leap towards your goals and dreams if instability and uncertainty are here to stay?

The Third Industrial Revolution was about simple digitalization. We are now at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is about combinations of technology. Data is king and information is queen. Their exponential growth means greater choice, but also greater complexity. Navigating a career path is less linear, more diffuse, and fragmented. We all need to learn to leap – develop new skills, new knowledge, adapt our mindsets and behaviors for changing personal and business circumstances.

Think the unthinkable and take nothing for granted because change will happen faster.


Consequently, lifelong and life-wide learning is essential to survive and thrive in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). Work on these seven habits:

Be leaderly

See beyond the day-to-day. Think the unthinkable and take nothing for granted because change will happen faster. The number of job types is greater than ever. Yet, they will disappear and new ones will appear quicker than in the past. As Gandhi put it, lead in thought and action to be the future you want to see.

Be more, do less

Balance excessive doing with space for being. Let your mind wander for creativity and problem-solving. Practice mindful activities, that state of being that quietens the incessant chatter in your head and acts as an antidote to information overload.

Question assumptions

Develop your ethical instincts for doing the right thing. Ask the right questions with skill. Challenge accepted wisdom (’we’ve always done it like that’). Be curious.

Focus on solutions

Propose ideas because you are best placed to see what needs changing. Experiment. See failures as part of the process of finding success (failing forward). Contribute to the real-world problem that most drives your energy and commitment.

Broaden your view

Look outwards as well as inwards – to your other people and the wider environment. Hone your antennae to spot and seize opportunities. Be proactive as well as reactive. Develop enough breadth and depth in more than one discipline. Not everyone gets their purpose just from work. That’s what lifewide learning is about. A personal interest can become a viable route to making a living.

Balance your behaviors

Get a balance between task-focused behavior and people-directed behavior, and between business ethics and social responsibility. In the age of AI, higher order people skills like emotional intelligence, problem-solving and judgment calls will carry greater weight than previous times.

Renew regularly

Reinvent yourself when your situation or goal is no longer the right one for you. Adjust your course if necessary. Twist for momentum rather than stick with apathy. Embrace ambiguity, uncertainty, and variety. Learn how to learn, unlearn, and re-learn – so you can leap in different directions at different times and be equipped to make a change no matter what the prevailing conditions. 

Which ones do you need to start or continue working on? What would you add?

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