Anatomy of a Learning Experience

By Payton Hobbs, head of Lower School

Change. This word evokes a variety of emotions for different people—excitement, fear, curiosity and anxiety are some of the most common responses. Over the past couple of years, I have moved past associating change with challenge. I now embrace that change is a natural part of a learning experience that leads to growth.

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. —John Maxwell

We live in a complex, ever-evolving world. Leaders and organizations with a high adaptability quotientthe ability to adapt to and thrive in an environment of change, are the ones experiencing the most joy and success. They understand that change represents a learning opportunity and can result in improved performance and growth. They actively choose curiosity and excitement over fear and anxiety.

This shift in mindset occurred for me after engaging in professional development with leaders from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and exploring the anatomy of a learning experience pictured here.

The point on the curve that represents a “learning opportunity” can be any change that presents itself in your life—a new job or responsibility, transition to a different school or grade level, shift in program or resources, change in leadership, expanding your social circle, joining a new team, or exploring a skill or idea for the first time.

At this point in the experience, we have a choice. We can stay in our comfort zone and maintain the status quo in our lives, or we can lean forward knowing we may experience some stress and discomfort in the beginning as we “GAgainst the Grain” (GAG).

Those who elect to stay long enough in the GAG zone, and choose to wrestle with the discomfort instead of avoiding it, will eventually enter the recovery zone and reap the benefits in performance growth. The leaders and organizations that remain in the comfort zone and resist change quickly become irrelevant in our fast-paced society.

It isn’t easy work. In addition to a growth mindset, you need a strong support system that provides direction, alignment and commitment. A healthy dose of humility and humor will go a long way, too!

When my family moved from North Carolina to California in 2018, we had the gift of experiencing change in all the areas listed above. It was messy for sure, and we were living in the GAG zone together. It was also beautiful because I watched us grow stronger emotionally, physically, socially and mentally as a result of our decision to lean forward. We could have easily stayed comfortable and happy where we were, but we would have missed out on the personal and professional growth that we are now experiencing in our new community at La Jolla Country Day School. The mess was worth it!

It is not the change or challenge that defines us or our experience, it is how we choose to respond.  

I am grateful to be part of a community that leans into the discomfort that comes along with change and remains focused on learning and growth.

Payton Hobbs
Payton Hobbs

Head of Lower School

Payton Hobbs began her work in the field of education learning with the youngest students as a classroom teacher. She taught kindergarten and first and second grades at both public and private schools. As Mrs. Hobbs’ career progressed, she wanted to expand her impact with learners of all ages and transitioned into leadership positions that included director of curriculum and instruction, assistant head of Lower School, associate director of admission, and head of Lower School. Prior to joining the LJCDS community, Mrs. Hobbs was the head of Lower School at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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