In the past I’ve had a love / hate relationship with learning.
On the one hand I’m a learning junkie particularly in the area of personal development, yet equally I’ve found the learning process itself quite uncomfortable at times.
Over the years I’ve learnt how to make learning easier and in today’s blog I’m going to share a few things I’ve learnt about learning.
Perfectionism Is An Obstacle.
I’m a recovering Perfectionist. Take it from me, if you want to torture yourself when learning something new expect to
(a) quickly understand everything about your subject and
(b) become an expert on the topic straight away.
Learning something new entails travelling into new territory and expanding a mental map of understanding otherwise we’re not learning we’re simply rehashing what we already know. So par for the course is confusion.
Many of us however are not comfortable with confusion. For example we make it mean things like ‘I’m stupid because I don’t understand this’ or ‘I’m not smart enough to learn this’.
In order to learn, to create new maps of understanding, we need to permission ourselves to experience degrees of confusion along the road to clarity. We need to allow ourselves to be beginners.
Effective learning also entails deliberate practice which Wikipedia defined as:
‘Repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills and rigorous skills assessment’.
Talent is overrated and practice is underrated. We can’t expect to achieve mastery without putting in the effort. Learning takes time.
Using The Quadrants To Learn
Borrowing from Ken Wilber’s work, we can use his four quadrants to learn more effectively.
Ken’s model of reality suggests we can look at the four aspects any part of human experience to gain greater insight into their totality.
In summary, these four perspectives consist of two binary choices: the interior and exterior / individual and collective.
When you have something to learn take a stroll around the 4 quadrants by asking yourself questions from each perspective such as:
- What’s important to me about learning this?
- How can I work with others to understand this better? What are the unspoken rules of this learning space that may be impacting me?
- How will I put this into practice. How will I embody this? How will I make this mine?
- How does this fit with what I already know? How could it improve the overall way I approach X? What support systems will help me to learn this?
Do You Need To Learn Something Before You Learn Something?
In my younger years I came across a personal development program that interested me. It was intensive in nature, running over 10 days for 12 hours a day, and at the time the very thought of sitting in a room for that length of time was enough to make me want to run a mile. So I left it a year and took up a meditation program that built my internal capacity to be still.
Sometimes we need to develop competence in a seemingly unrelated area before we ready to learn something new. Do you have all the skills you need to be able to set forth on your next learning adventure?
One of the most useful personal development tools I’ve come across is the Enneagram. Knowing your enneatype can help you gain awareness about potential challenges including those related to learning.
I’ve already mentioned I’m a recovering perfectionist which is an enneatype is one challenge. Type sevens are constantly looking for options preferring to skip from one thing to another and find it difficult to stay with one particular topic. Type five’s can conditionally base their value on what they know. Type six can get caught in the detail. What are your enneatypes potential pitfalls?
If don’t know your enneatype, follow this link and do an on-line test. https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/
Put It Into Practice
It’s one thing to understand something intellectually and a whole other thing to embody it.
When I learn something new the first thing I do is make it my own as soon as possible. I literally try it on. I might do this by testing to see how it works on me, sharing it with someone, drawing a picture of it, looking at how and where I can use it, physically practicing it, making a mind map of it, putting reminder notes on my phone to prompt me about it and so on.
Sometimes as I try it on I discover I haven’t fully understood what I learnt and need to go back and review it, sometimes I just need to practice it to make it second nature, and sometimes it sticks straight away.
To keep up with this rapidly moving age we live in, we need to be effective learners. Have you learnt how you learn best?