A Tool for Change: The Teachability Index

Feb 07, 2019

A Tool for Change: The Teachability Index

Written by: Sonia Heidenreich, LGSW In my life outside of being a therapist, I teach yoga, and in that role, I sometimes get to participate in professional development with my fellow teachers.

Written by: Sonia Heidenreich, LGSW

In my life outside of being a therapist, I teach yoga, and in that role, I sometimes get to participate in professional development with my fellow teachers. Recently, we were introduced to the concept of the “Teachability Index” during a training, and I found it really interesting.

Now, before I get started explaining it, you might be wondering: What does teaching, teachability, or any of this professional development mumbo-jumbo have to do with my work in therapy? Well, I would argue that when we’re trying to make any type of change, whether that is learning a new concrete skill in our jobs or learning a new way of relating to our own emotions, a new way of being in our lives, or new ways to manage feelings of anxiety or depression, we need to get really honest about what is holding us back from changing. The Teachability Index offers us a quick way to assess where we might be getting stuck when we’re considering making changes.

Learning to ride a bike requires a desire to learn and the willingness to change (and fall over)—thank you REI Co-Op for the expert advice and photo.

So, let’s jump in!

It’s a simple process that only involves 2 questions. You rate yourself on a scale of 0-10 for both questions, multiply your numbers together, and get your Teachability index score. Sounds straightforward, right?

The first question to ask yourself is: What is your desire to learn? [0 – 10]
Things to consider:

  • Do you like learning new things?
  • Are you willing to give up your time to learn something new?
  • Are you willing to give up money or other resources in your pursuit of knowledge?
  • Are you willing to listen to new ideas or another person’s perspective?

What is your willingness to change? [0-10]

  • Are you willing to try new things in order to make a change?
  • Will you try doing something new even if it means changing your routines, habits, patterns or preferences?
  • What is your relationship to feeling uncomfortable? Are you willing and ready to tolerate some degree of discomfort?

The best and most relatable example I heard came from a fellow teacher, who shared her goal of “being in a committed relationship.” She rated herself highly on her desire to learn, citing her general love of learning, willingness to talk to friends about how to use dating apps and to ask for help creating a dating profile, and her general openness to hearing from others about their dating success stories. When she went to rate her willingness to change, however, she very honestly gave herself a low rating, citing her lack of willingness to change her daily routines (she’s busy with work she loves, friends she values, and family she wants to spend time with), and her dread of enduring first date experiences. So, although she says she wants to be in a relationship, she realized that maybe she isn’t as ready or willing to take steps in her life right now to make that more likely to happen.

This might sound depressing, but I think it’s actually very helpful. Rather than just feeling stuck or attributing our lack of progress towards a goal as a personal failing, it shows us where exactly we might be getting in our own way. It also is an honest way to assess ourselves in this present moment and points us in the direction we might need to go. If we love learning but aren’t willing to make changes in our habits, we might really enjoy learning new skills to manage anxiety but struggle to practice them in our lives. Then, rather than wondering why we’re still feeling the same way, maybe we can use this information to hold ourselves accountable to practicing, or even to just acknowledge that there are other things getting in the way of our progress (life, right?). On the flipside, maybe we’re totally willing to make changes, but we hear new ideas from people and think, “Yeah, but what does that person know?” or “Why would that ever work?” Okay, so maybe we don’t have a true desire to learn new things in this present moment.

The last and greatest thing about this index is that we can repeat it as many times as we want. Maybe we’re having a stressful week and end up with a low score, and then some time passes, we’re feeling great, and we assess ourselves again and find we have a higher Teachability Index. Great! It might be a perfect time to make a change and to reasonably expect to see progress towards our goal.