Our minds do not work on facts alone, they work with association. So to learn a new fact, or skill, or even a part of a skill our mind needs to associate it with something we already know. These associations can be as simple as 1 + 1 = 2, although if you look into it that is really not at all simple, or they can be looking over the edge of a cliff = fear. The way we form these associations are many-fold. For instance, if we’re repeatedly told that touching fire will hurt us that may be enough to form the association, but some of us would feel the need to actually touch the fire to learn. There are even those who would need to touch the fire more than once to be convinced, or those who are told once and simply believe.
We all learn differently too. We have several different senses and, when we’re learning, we will often have a preferred method for learning. As you’re reading this for instance you may find that one of the ways particularly jumps out for you as your preferred method.
- Visual. Sometimes we just need to see something to learn it
- Auditory. Listening to someone describe it works for us
- Kinaesthetic. Actually getting hands on and trying it is the best way for us
Our school systems have investigated the way we learn and create lessons around the best methods. Gone are the days that students would simply be lectured on certain topics and then told off for not understanding (thankfully). You will now, hopefully, find in our schools that our teachers will:
- Tell you (Auditory)
- Show you (Visual and auditory combined)
- Let you have a go (Kinaesthetic)
That way the teachers can assure the best approach for a classroom full of students.
These approaches are used in the best training programmes, so that each student has the best possible chance of success!
So, which do you prefer?
- To read about a subject
- To watch a video about it
- To try doing it
Hopefully you’ll like some sort of a combination. Perhaps a short introduction to the skill, watching a demonstration, followed by some guided practice. Have a think about it and consider your best approach to learning before you try and learn something new.
Why we give up
Have you ever started learning a new skill, for whatever reason, and then given up learning it. Perhaps you’ve made some sort of an excuse to yourself such as, “I never really wanted to do that anyway”. Perhaps you got a certain way towards learning it and just decided it’s too difficult.
Basically the reason we give up at anything is simple. The perceived reward is outweighed by the amount of effort required to achieve it! Think about a little boy down in an orchard, who decides he wants an apple. He knows it’ll taste good and fill him up, but it’s out of reach. He stretches for it, but still can’t reach it. He jumps and tries to grab it a few times before realising it’s out of reach. He looks around for a stick to knock it down with, but can’t see one. So finally he decides that he didn’t really want the apple in the first place and stomps off home. Quite simply it became too much effort to receive the reward. I’m sure you can think of a time in the past when you did a similar thing (the giving up part, rather than trying to pick fruit from a tree), and lost your motivation to get the reward.
The other reason for giving up is quite simply we don’t believe we can get the reward. It may be that you don’t feel worthy to receive it, or it may be that you don’t believe it’s possible for you to get it. If you lose faith in that reward, your motivation will fail too.
Keeping our motivation
All the time the reward outweighs the effort we will be able to keep going. If the reward is good enough, and big enough, we will keep striving to achieve it. Take the example of the boy in the orchard. If he really wants the apple he’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Perhaps he’ll climb the tree in order to reach the apple, or maybe he’ll keep searching until he finds the stick to knock it down with. How long does he keep trying? All the time he wants the apple. And all the time he believes he can, and will, get the apple some way!
So if we ensure that the rewards of our goals are bright enough, big enough, shiny enough. And we ensure that our beliefs are in place, we’ll keep going no matter what gets in our way.
If we can’t manage on our own, or simply want a better, or easier, way to achieve we can always get help. Many people believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but of course that’s just a belief! Asking for help is actually a sign of strength, a sign that says, we’re confident enough in ourselves to ask for guidance. If you wanted to learn a new language would you just go out and buy a book and practice on your own, or would you go and join a class where you could learn from a teacher and practice with others of a similar level of knowledge? Surely we would want to make any task easier to achieve.
If you have a problem that you’re struggling to solve on your own, it’s crazy not to seek help. Albert Einstein defined Insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. So if you’re struggling ask for help.
Again let’s go back to that boy in the orchard. He’s tried jumping, climbing and finding a stick that’s long enough, but he’s still not got the apple. Along comes an adult, who he knows, so he asks “Can you pick that apple for me please?”. The adult reaches up and gently picks the apple, smiles and hands it to the child. How simple was that?