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How We’ve Been Learning Wrong

How We’ve Been Learning Wrong

What is learning, really? At the heart of it, do you approach learning something as truly consuming it, letting it ruminate and understanding it before applying what you know? Or do you simply memorize information that’s being fed to you and consider that “knowledge”? If it’s the latter, you may be using learning as an excuse to avoid putting in effort.

I know I have been guilty of simply memorizing information for an exam or paper and realizing I couldn’t recall any of the facts afterward. In school I never saw this as a problem. After all, I was acing tests! But now in my adult life, I realize there are certain things I truly learned, as I have retained them all these years. But there are plenty of things I remember being taught but have no recollection of beyond that.

Attending lessons doesn’t equal learning

Have you ever thought about how bizarre it is that we wake up five days a week and go to a building filled with desks, only to sit there counting down the minutes until the bell rings and we go home to do homework before starting it all over again the next day? If you feel like you aren’t actually learning anything, this can seem like a huge waste of mind-numbing time.

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You’ve probably heard people say they learn best by doing. I know I do. But what if we all do? Think about it: you could watch someone build a car all day long on Youtube, but if you were then given all the parts, would you truly know how to put it together it? You would know how it should look in the end, and you may even have a general idea of where things belong. But the odds of you putting together a working car just from seeing someone do it are slim. Until you apply the knowledge you’re witnessing to your life, you haven’t truly learned it; you’ve just seen it.

Knowledge is more accurately 30% consumption and 70% creation

First things first, knowledge does not equal 100% consumption. You cannot simply read about something all day and call yourself an expert. It takes time and application. Think of consuming knowledge the same way you consume healthy foods on a new diet. Eating nothing but raw veggies and lean protein for one full day will not instantly transform your health or body. But doing it for a long time and making it a part of your life will lead to the results you want. Just like learning something, applying it to your life, working with it and adjusting what you really know will give you true knowledge over time, too.

Knowledge is more accurately 30% consumption and 70% creation. When you learn about something, you’re consuming it and allowing some ideas to take shape in your mind. When you are learning to do something, you’re using motor skills and memory to truly understand concepts and grasp facts. That’s when knowledge becomes real and powerful.

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You learn the most by failing

It’s never fun to fail at something. In fact, in certain scenarios it can be embarrassing and upsetting. But with every failure comes a lesson. If you can use that lesson in your next attempt, you may still fail, but you’ll be closer to getting it right. I remember when I was taking Spanish in High School and later French in College. Both languages required dedication and study, but I didn’t figure out how to communicate in either of them by simply reading about what words translated to what and hearing someone tell me about conjugation.

I learned through trying to speak and occasionally messing up. In fact, I was on a study abroad trip in Ireland with an exchange student from France. He was incredibly handsome and I was the only one who could speak any French. Of course I seized the opportunity and would strike up a conversation at every opportunity. One morning, I tried to tell him I liked his sweater (le pull) but instead told him I liked his chicken (poulet)!! Thankfully he found it hilarious and not absurd, but I was mortified! But you can bet I never forgot the word after that. It took failure (and humiliation in my case) for me to actually learn the word rather than assume I knew it.

Stop using learning as a method of procrastination

When you accept sitting in a desk and hearing about something as the equivalent to knowledge you’re cheating yourself out of success. You’re procrastinating by sitting there and pretending you’re an expert simply because you wrote a paper about something.

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In order to truly be successful and master a subject or idea, you will still have to research and study. The idea is to truly implement the things you’re learning – even through something as simple as having a conversation about it with someone – in your every day life.

My friends and family all know I am a wealth of random facts and “worthless information,” but it’s because I heard things that sparked my interest, researched them, told people about the things I had learned and applied them to my life when/if possible. I’m sure I would be great at math if I had a passion or career that required me to excel at it. I’d be a phenomenal scientist if I had ever truly cared about the experiments we did in my chem class. But I didn’t put forth the effort. Instead, I watched, I listened and I forgot.

So think about your daily life and your career or aspirations. What could you be doing differently that would help you apply the things you’re learning about in order to truly know them? What areas of study do you have difficulty in? Are these the subjects you don’t care about and often cram for the night before an exam? Take that into consideration and realize what that could be a sign of.

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Featured photo credit: Krzysztof Puszcyzynski via stocksnap.io

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Heather Poole

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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