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How to Learn Smart and Become a Quick Learner

How to Learn Smart and Become a Quick Learner

Do you find you’re envious of people who are able to learn quickly? They seem to get a concept straight away while you’re still trying to get your head around it. We often form the belief that these quick learners are just more intelligent – that their brains are wired to understand and pick up complicated formulas, strategies and concepts more easily.

However, while everyone is different when it comes to learning, being smart has nothing to do with being a quick learner but rather it’s about adopting different learning strategies in order to allow the brain to figure it out more easily.

There are certain tactics to allow you to become a quick learner and proves that intelligence really has nothing to do with it. By learning these strategies, you can quicken up your understanding of a topic and apply it to pretty much anything you learn.

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Adopt These Learning Styles and You Can Become a Quick Learner Too

Learning quickly is all about retaining information more efficiently and enjoying the learning process. Since this is the case, almost anyone is able to become a quick learner so here are 5 concepts you can try out.

Visceralization

When we’re very young we learn through creation – drawing, painting, using vivid colours and visualisation which all fundamentally stems from our imagination. Once we enter our older years at school, we’re encouraged to forget all this and our brains turn to memorisation instead.

But, of course, this doesn’t suit everyone and it’s often the reason why many people struggle academically which plants the notion that we’re just not that smart compared to others.

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Connecting concepts with visual creation is a really good way for our brain to understand better. Don’t be afraid to create colourful pictures and diagrams in order to get your head around something difficult and mundane. Not only does this help with the learning process and connecting the dots, but it also excites the brain and keeps it motivated.

Using Metaphors

The brain remembers things better when you compare an idea or concept with something else. This is where metaphors are a good way of understanding and cementing information. Using one concept to illustrate another will, again, help your brain connect the dots – in other words, it’s about capturing the essential nature of a concept to explain the abstract.

Comparing radio waves to ripples on a water surface or electricity flowing to water moving through a pipe, for example, allows the light bulb to go off in our mind as our brain happily likes applying known concepts to new.

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Linking

If you’ve seen those people who can memorise a whole deck of cards in a random order then you’ll be pleased to know it’s not because they’re much smarter than others. They are using a technique called linking.

Linking is, again, using that imagination of ours. This time it’s using story-telling to link one thing to another to create a flow. If you wanted to memorise a grocery list – oranges, milk, bananas, honey – you could imagine an orange man (oranges) bringing a cow (milk) to a monkey (bananas) who got stung by a bee (honey). The beauty of this technique is that it can help you remember anything from extremely long lists to difficult abstract concepts. The more bizarre, the better.

Total Immersion

You’ve probably heard this technique when it comes to learning a new language fast. The idea is to completely surround yourself with what you need to learn in order to force your brain to use it and make sense of it.

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If you stay in a new country where they just don’t speak your language, then you have to adapt in order to survive. This survival mode and constant repetition quickens up the learning process ten fold because your brain is in constant learning mode.

The Five-Year Old Method

This is an excellent way to find out how well you understand a new concept. Imagine having to explain this new concept to a child or at least, someone who has no idea what you’re talking about! It’s all about being able to simplify what you learn by reducing the complexity and using analogies. So once you’ve been introduced to a new piece of information ask yourself how you’d explain this to someone else. Can you do it?

If you can, you know you’ve mastered it so make sure you stop once in a while and just explain it to yourself in a simple way to confirm that you’ve got it. Most of the time it’s difficult to learn quickly because we haven’t made sure we’ve understood all the concepts along the way. This technique will eliminate this.

So go ahead and give these concepts a try. If you’re struggling to learn something, take heart that everyone has their own style of learning. Don’t be afraid to go back to your childhood roots and unlock that imagination – it will go a long way in helping you learn more quickly.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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