Discretionary Learning


Discretionary income is what’s left of your pay after taxes, bills and basic cost of living expenses. How you use the money left is up to you. Discretionary learning is up to you, too. It’s not essential for your job, it’s not dictated or handed to you by your employer. Like your money, it can slip through your fingers unnoticed, add to the quality of your life now, or be invested in your future.


Whether you do it randomly, deliberately or not at all, there are opportunities every day for discretionary learning:


Learning as a By-product – travel, novels, movies, sport or hobbies often teach valuable lessons or allow you to expand your knowledge and understanding. Sometimes you’ll develop skills as you engage with pleasurable activities.


Self-directed Learning – a goal or interest you deliberately pursue, seeking information, guided practice, using a coach or mentor.


Random Events – using your own life experience applying the philosophy of “there’s no such thing as mistakes, only learning opportunities”


Vicarious Experience – someone else’s experience, hearing someone’s story.


Observation – noticing how others do things, paying attention to nuance and subtle behaviours that make a difference


Osmosis – simply absorbing attitudes, culture, norms, behaviours


All except the last, require you to reflect, think, make meaning and decide to use the learning in beneficial ways. Osmosis, however, can be mindless. If what is absorbed is positive that might be OK, but it is easy to consume and adopt patterns that can be harmful to yourself and others. We see this in cults and extremists. So we need to exercise discretion in this kind of learning. In other words, build the skills of reflection, empathy and critical thinking. Mentoring does exactly that.


In a mentoring conversation both people are present. Good questions bring about reflection and critical thinking. Deep listening enables understanding, empathy and acceptance to flourish – even when there is a difference in values and beliefs.

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About Ann Rolfe

Ann Rolfe is internationally recognised as Australia's leading specialist in mentoring, and is available for speaking, training and consulting. Here Ann shares her knowledge and allows you to ask your most pressing questions about mentoring.

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