Things to consider when learning something new

Learning

This is not going to be a rant about making a plan and sticking to it, or the absolute truth about learning. We’ve all gone through several learning processes either in school or at the workplace, and there are certainly lots of strategies that work. Besides these, there are a few key ingredients that would make things easier if we have them in the back of our minds whenever we set out to learn something new. Here’s my list and see if you can relate:

     1. Openness

Ideally, you should have a genuine interest in the topic. Even when you’re learning because you have to, the key is to find how you will benefit from the outcome.
E.g.: You have to learn to be a better public speaker, even if you’ve never really liked the spotlight, but somehow you’re placed in a context where you have to do this. Rather than seeing it as a burden, you can look at the benefits of learning this on a long run: sharing your expertise or inspiring others to overcome obstacles etc

     2. Research

And by research I don’t mean just reading or memorizing, but rather gathering info and finding or making associations so as to truly understand the concept. Plus connecting the dots helps you remember the concepts more effortlessly.

     3. Testing

Put your knowledge to trial: maybe some of us are comfortable with taking tests, measuring progress. Others might be repelled only when hearing the word “assessment”. No matter what your style is, the idea is to play with the concepts you know so far and put them in a practical form just to see where ‘you’re at’ right now.

     4. Make your learning clumsiness-friendly

Embrace your clumsiness and your non-expert status. Simply allow yourself to be in the flow and don’t think about how ridiculous you might look.

    5. Constant effort

‘Practice makes perfect’ is such a cliché statement and it’s actually so wrongly put. The idea is that it’s important to commit to your plan or schedule or any kind of constant practice. Simply the consistency of it means progress and a more realistic rephrasing would be that ‘Practice makes better’. That way you won’t put too much pressure and it won’t make practice feel like a painful task.

     6. Resilience to frustration

You won’t like the process all the way and that’s ok. Frustration is not an indicator of how skilled you are. To be honest, learning actually is always messy in the middle and most of the time accomplishment or content comes only when looking back on the whole experience.

     7. Celebrate progress

Make sure you notice every new item on your ‘can do list’ and feel proud and joyful about it. The point is to compare yourself with ‘yesterday’s you’ and acknowledge how your abilities have changed for the better.
E.g.: To be honest I don’t like writing and I still don’t feel I’ve accomplished anything significant in this area. But simply the fact that I stuck with it despite everything in my body telling me to drop it, for me is a sign that I improved my tolerance to frustration.

    8. “Why so serious?”

We have gotten used to thinking that learning is a serious matter, so we tend to take ourselves too seriously, which lowers our capability to adapt to changing conditions and contexts.  Though underrated, self-irony and humor can turn out to be the best coping mechanism for almost any sort of challenge or drawback.

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These are some of the key elements that in my experience help any kind of learning process. What would you add to the list?

Oh, and by the way, in case you were expecting a success formula, the bad news is that there is none. And the good news is that you can make your own by combing these and/or other elements you came across in your experience.

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