The Art of Letting Go: Why Unlearning is as Important as Learning, Grant Writing Simplified with Teresa Huff, Episode 145

The Art of Letting Go: Why Unlearning is as Important as Learning [Episode 145]

"If we want to move to the next level, that may require us to unlearn and let go of some of our old habits or old mindsets, and instead make room for new learning."

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We Constantly Talk About Learning. But What About Unlearning?

We all know lifelong learning matters. I’m constantly encouraging you to pick up new skills, strategies, and ways of thinking to stay sharp and relevant. But here’s the thing—sometimes we need to let go of the old to make room for the new. As crucial as learning is, unlearning may be just as vital to our growth and ability to adapt.

When We’re Stuck, It’s Often Because We Need to Unlearn

I was thinking about this the other day and realized that when we try implementing new things but just can’t move forward, it could be because we need to unlearn outdated habits or mindsets blocking our progress. If we want to reach the next level personally or professionally, we likely need to release our white-knuckled grip on the status quo. Because here’s the hard truth: what got you here won’t necessarily get you there. And what got you here will also keep you here.

Why Unlearning Can Feel Uncomfortable

I get that unlearning is uncomfortable. Our egos want to be right. Fear of change and the unknown makes us cling to what’s familiar. Cognitive biases like confirmation bias lead us to see only what aligns with current beliefs.

Strategies to Help You Unlearn

So let me suggest having an accountability partner or mastermind peer group to gently help uncover your blind spots. Asking open-ended, exploratory questions instead of leading ones can also reveal where you need to let go.

Unlearning Applies to Organizations Too

This applies as much to organizations as individuals. Nonprofit boards can fall into ruts, resisting change or lacking vision, always defaulting to “this is how we’ve always done it.” In these cases, asking new questions, challenging assumptions, and unlearning ingrained ways of operating is key to moving forward.

Pursuing Innovation May Require Unlearning

For example, as you learn exciting new tools and strategies (like AI!), approach them with openness to unlearn any preconceived notions or processes that may close you off to new breakthroughs or ways of working. Don’t let fear of the unknown prevent you from trying something new.

Signs You May Need to Unlearn Something:

  • You complain about being stuck but keep doing the same things
  • You resist feedback or suggestions from others
  • You feel overwhelmed trying to learn new skills on top of old ones
  • You find yourself thinking “I already know this” rather than actively listening

Why Unlearning Matters

The bottom line? Lifelong learning matters—and lifelong unlearning does too. Progress requires releasing comfortable but constraining ways of thinking and doing to create space for the new. Reexamine your assumptions, habits, and beliefs through curiosity, not defensiveness.

Unlearning Propels You Forward

Unlearning isn’t easy, but it can propel you forward. By letting go, you make room for progress to grow. I believe in you, my friends!

Challenge Questions:

  1. What old habits or mindsets can you let go of to pursue breakthroughs?
  2. Where might you be clinging to the status quo out of fear?
  3. How can you become more open to feedback and growth?

I’d love to hear about your work, so shoot me an email and let’s chat!

Resources Mentioned:

Find out about how to give nonprofits the ROI they are looking for in my TEDx Talk on YouTube and share it with your colleagues.

If you need help, book a 1:1 strategy session with me at teresahuff.com/mentor. The world needs you out there making a difference!

Connect with me over on LinkedIn or send me a message. And if you need more support, join me on the Fast Track to Grant Writer already and let’s get you moving!

Free Audit: How Grant-Ready Is Your Nonprofit?

Are you feeling overwhelmed with trying to help your nonprofit apply for grants? Go through the free audit and I’ll help you sort out the next steps for your organization.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Grant Writer? Take the Quiz:

If you’re ready to explore a career in grant writing, take my free quiz, “Do you have what it takes to be a grant writer?” People are always surprised at how many skills they already have. The distance isn’t as far as they thought. Let’s figure out how you can use your skills to help change your world.

If you’re ready to step up your nonprofit game in 2023, join me on the Fast Track to Grant Writer. The world needs you.

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