I don’t know about you — but when I think back to my days spent immersed in school books, sharpening my pencil over and over, and sighing over the tests I had to study for the thing I remember most was how bored I was.
I had almost zero drive to learn.
Every once in awhile something would capture my attention and spark my interest and creativity but then it would fade away in the face of papers, tests, and all of the ‘rules’.
The one subject I recall with the most clarity is English. It was the one subject that gave me the freedom to dream and create, to practice and form new ideas.
Learning English excited me. I learned to write, craft stories and become lost in my imagination. To me, writing was exciting and that enthusiasm and curiosity burned everything in my brain unlike any other subject that I slowly forced myself through.
Boredom = regurgitating facts for tests.
Excitement and licence to use my creativity actively = learning that stuck and transformed who I was.
We learn to make a change, to transform who we are, to have empathy for those around us, to gain skills, and to understand the world around us.
To become the person we want to be, with the character we long to have, skills that fit our passions, to have lives where we thrive.
We learn, as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. so eloquently put it to be so stretched that we are never the same person again.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”We learn to be stretched by new experiences so that we will never fit the same dimensions that we used to.
School taught us to follow the rules, always have the right answer, to sit quietly at our desks and regurgitate the information we had been haded.
In school we simply consumed a lot of information.
Consumed it, repeated it back for a test, and forgot it.
As adults, our memories of learning revolve strongly around boredom, sitting quietly and playing by someone else's rules.
All the while we were created to dream, and grow, to play with new ideas, to exhaust our creativity and let our imaginations wander. To transform ourselves through learning.
Think of all the things you can do with learning to transform your life. The skills you can learn. Think of the tiny inklings you have had, those sparks of interest and how you can pursue it with zest and vitality. All through learning.
You can completely transform.
The you today doesn’t have to be the you in three months from now.
You can grow, and thrive, and change, and be the person you know is burning inside of you by exciting your creativity, by being active in your learning, by bringing in new information and expanding your mind.
You can be challenged, grown, excited.
And the best part? Learning is a learned skill. So it doesn’t matter who you are, or how you think you can or can’t learn, or how well you did in school.
You have the capability to learn — to learn well, to learn fast and learn in a way that you can retain what you learned.
Jim Quick of MindValley talks about the key processes in being able to learn.
#1 Forget and Empty
The first is to forget about everything you think you know.
Forget everything you think you know about the subject.
Forget how you think you learn or can’t learn.
Empty your mind and be ready to receive information.
#2 Be Active
Learning doesn’t happen by just reading or hearing facts. It comes by being fully engaged.
Taking notes, speaking parts out loud, listening to how you emotionally respond to a statement, thinking about the applications in your own mind, visualizing the content.
The more engaged you are in and with the content the more powerfully you will be able to retain it.
Instead of just consuming information — create with the content you are learning.
Bring something into existence.
Cause something to happen.
It might be notes on a page, it might be a scene visualized in your head, it might be quantifiable and life changing.
You choose, you curate the environment in which you channel your learning forward.
#3 Emotion + Information = Memory
Simply put, emotion combined with information creates a long term memory.
Your brain will imprint information into long term memory when it is associated with an emotion — the more powerful the emotion the more powerful the imprint.
You (and only you!) are in control of the emotional state in which you are learning.
Being in a state of boredom won’t make much of an imprint but being excited, curious, energized, eager…all of these high emotions will create long lasting imprints. They will also drive you to want to learn more.
The secret to getting excited and curious? Your intelligence, talents and ingenuity should be exchanged for allowing things to baffle, perplex, and confuse you.
Forget everything you thought you knew. Be baffled. Dig until you get it. Wonder until you sit back going ‘aha!’. Get confused and slowly unwind the mystery. Don’t think your so clever as to not be willing to be bewildered.
Learn as if you were going to teach. You’ll learn differently. You’ll retain information differently. You’ll see things you probably would have missed.
Then, teach it.
Seriously, take your new knowledge out into the world and breathe life into others by sharing what you have learned.
Teaching means you’ll learn twice, you’ll raise the stakes for yourself, your nervous excitement will cement the ideas and skills into your long term memory. Things will jump out at you, you’ll pay careful attention, you’ll practice, you’ll visualize it, you’ll make notes.
You’ll simply learn better.
You’ve got this!