Has this ever happened to you? You get into the car, turned on the ignition and step on the gas. But the car doesn’t move. Because… you’ve left the handbrake on!
You might wonder what starting a car has to do with learning (almost) anything?
It’s difficult to learn if you leave the brakes on.
The brakes are our negative beliefs and preconceptions. When we find and release the brakes, learning becomes easy.
The human mind is a learning machine.
Consider toddlers for a moment. In a short time they learn two incredibly complex skills – talking and walking. And they learn them at the same time. Toddlers can even learn two or more different languages at once. (I grew up biligual and learned English and German right from the start.)
To learn with ease we need to be clear about the following four questions:
- Who’s driving?
- Have you released the brakes?
- What’s your destination?
- Where’s your map?
Let’s take up each question in turn.
1. Who’s driving?
This is about motivation. Is the skill you’re planning to learn something you ‘should’ do? If so, your motivation is external. It’s directed by other people. Or are you passionate about learning this new skill? In that case, your motivation is internal.
Your motivation needs to be internal because ‘shoulds’ have no power for sustained action. If your motivation is external, see if you can find some internal motivation to carry your learning forward. Ask yourself, ‘How will this new skill benefit me?’
2. Have you released the brakes?
Are your negative beliefs and your self-talk limiting your learning potential? It’s easy to find out: listen to what you thinking and saying.
In my case I noticed three negative beliefs that were putting the brakes on learning how to produce videos. They were: “I’m not good with technical stuff”, “I’m not good at learning to use new software”, and “I’m not a visual person.”
As you can imagine, these three negative beliefs made learning how produce a video nearly impossible! Each aspect was affected – from handling the camera to editing the video or publishing it on the Net. Once I noticed what I was doing, I changed my storylines. I told myself and others: “I can learn to operate cameras easily”, “I’m pretty good with new software”, and “My eye is getting better with practice.”
The result? I’ve surprised myself. I’m learning my new skill much faster than I expected!
3. What’s your destination?
In order to drive to your destination you need fuel. What fuels our learning journey are clear goals.
The key question is: Why do you want to learn a particular skill?
The more precisely you can answer that question, the easier it is to learn. Let’s take an example. As I said before, I’m learning video skills. If I phrased my goal like this: “I want to produce good videos to use on Goodlife Zen”, I would get no traction. Because the goal is to vague. In contrast, “I want to produce five videos on how to meditate”, gave me a clear destination for my journey of learning.
4. Where’s your map?
If you set out with a clear destination but without a map, you’ll run into problems. A map is important because it shows you how to get to your destination. So, how do we get a map? Well, we can develop parts of the map ourselves and then ask an instructor to fill in further details.
Our initial map could include:
- Answer questions one to four above
- Choose an instructor
- Find a buddy
- Start your learning journey
- Set and celebrate milestones
A map helps you when you lose your way. You can revisit it and look at how far you’ve come and plot your next phase of the journey.
In order to enjoy your learning journey and feel great, here are some important tips:
Choose good instruction
No matter what you want to learn, you’ll need to choose an instructor. This can be an instructor who works with you face-to-face, or it can be a book, articles on the net, or training programs.
Unfortunately most instructors don’t know how to teach beginners.
Their own experience as beginners lies so far back that they can’t remember it. What is clear to the instructor may be incomprehensible to a new student.
Tip: Choose an instructor who is able to guide you step by little step.
If you want to learn from a book, make sure that it’s written in a way that introduces you carefully to each new step. Personally, I tend to learn best from live instructors – whether I see them in real-time, or whether they run a program on the Net. The reason for that is that I need to be able to ask questions.
Sometimes we get stuck in the learning process because we don’t understand the next step. A question to an instructor can often see us right.
Good instruction can be expensive. Make sure you research the instructor thoroughly. Take a trial lesson if possible. And check out testimonials.
To learn on your own can be lonely. It’s important to share the highs and lows with other learners. Learning with others also keeps you up to the mark. This is the advantage of learning in a class. But even if you are learning in a virtual environment, finding a buddy is an important step.
Maybe your instructor can link you up with another learner. Or you can find someone in a forum who is on the same journey of learning.
Start your learning journey NOW
Once you’ve identified your initial map and found instruction, you need to start your learning journey without delay. If you’re not sure how to start, ask yourself a question:
“What is the smallest step in my learning journey that I can take right now?” Then follow through.
It’s easy to give up. I’m sure all of us have experience of giving up. Why do we give up? It may be that we haven’t released our brakes, or the learning journey seems too difficult.
If you feel like giving up, check out the following questions:
- Have I released the brakes?
- What is the step I’m struggling with?
- Am I still focused on my destination?
You may find that your negative self-talk reappears when you strike a difficulty on your learning journey. Make sure that you replace your negative view with a positive one.
If you are struggling with your learning material, try to pinpoint where the difficulty lies. Maybe you can formulate a question that you can ask your instructor, your buddy or on the Net.
If you feel like giving up, remind yourself of your destination. Write you goals on big sheets of paper and hang them up in your home.
Celebrating achievement is what makes us feel great about learning. Make sure you identify milestones and celebrate them!
Human beings are designed for life-long learning. Each new skill will enrich your life and make you feel good about yourself. The great thing is that with each positive learning experience, the next one becomes easier.
What is your experience with learning journeys? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.