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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

10 Remarkable Traits of Successful Learners

10 Remarkable Traits of Successful Learners

If you look around, you’ll notice one key trait in all self-made people; they are successful learners who understand what they’re doing in life.

These people are masters at the art of learning. Before initiating a project, they make sure they understand what they’re getting themselves into and this trait alone helps them avoid dozens of hurdles in the way.

But in order to be a successful learner, there are a lot of other traits that you’ll need to develop.

You see, learning is a multi-factorial trait that’s influenced by a number of factors and habits.

In order to become a successful learner, here are a few traits that you need to inculcate in yourself.

But before I dive in, I’d like to recommend you who want to learn faster to take a FREE Learning Fast Track Class offered by Lifehack. It’s a 20-minute intensive class called Spark Your Learning Genius, and will surely upgrade your learning skills right away. Find out more about the Fast Track Class here.

1. Persistence

Successful learners understand that learning takes time. For them, persistence is the key to success because nothing worth learning is learned in a day or two.

As an individual, I believe that the lack of persistence is what holds most people from achieving greatness.

Almost everyone has grand ideas and ambitions in life. But only a handful of people manage to accomplish their set goals and targets because others usually don’t put in the amount of work needed to achieve their goal.

I say this a lot:

When it comes to dreams, most people are just in love with the final product and not the process.

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Successful people, on the other hand, are in love with both.

2. Patience

Persistence and patience often go hand-in-hand. And successful learners are masters of both.

With that said, there’s some difference between both these terms.

Persistence is usually for the known while patience comes in handy when the unknown strikes.

Allow me to explain:

When you plan ahead and work consistently on it, that’s persistence. In this case, you’re continuously working towards your goal and following the set plan or layout.

However, patience is tested when that plan unknowingly fails or experiences a hurdle. That’s when there’s a huge chance of people backing out.

But successful learners practice patience and take their time to work past problems.

A good way to build patience is to accept that your plan or projection is bound to show deviations and discrepancies.

People who can’t accept the fact that their plans could fail are the ones who fail the most. Successful learners avoid that problem by expecting their plan to not work out exactly the way it’s supposed to.

3. Conceptual Learning

Successful learners believe in understanding and grasping concepts instead of rote learning.

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A lot of successful people are of the view that grades aren’t important. That’s because what matters is your understanding of the concept, not the final grade that you get.

In real life, the concept is what helps you to apply your learning and get something out of it. That’s why successful learners spend more time building and strengthening their concepts than they do on rote learning.

4. Strong Memory

Sure, concepts are important. But there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be memorized after building a strong concept.

There are other things like language that require minimal concept and maximum memorization. That’s why successful learners have a strong memory and that’s something they spend a lot of time working on. In fact, you may find brain and memory games on their phone as they spend ample time working on their retaining ability.

5. Leading Abilities

Successful learners are often important people in social gatherings. That’s because people recognize them as learned individuals that need to be respected on the basis of their knowledge. Often, that knowledge results in an influx of wealth that further helps in improving the social status of these individuals.

All these factors add up to create a personality that’s a leader by nature. It’s like their aura has a magnetic effect that pulls others around it.

Now the thing about this trait is that it often isn’t acquired directly. It’s not like successful learners learn to lead. It happens at a subconscious level often as a secondary output of their learning ability.

6. Discerning Valuable from the Useless

When I went into college, I was right-out intimidated by the size of the books we had to study. And for a while, this used to bother me because I was under the impression that we had to study each and every word of those books.

But as time progressed, I realized that merely 40% of the book was enough to get me 80% of the grades. Essentially, that 40% was the valuable part of those books that I needed to focus on before I decided to work on anything else.

This is similar to the Pareto’s Principle, otherwise known as the 80-20 principle which suggests that 80% of the outcome comes from 20% of the effort.[1]

By focusing on the parts of books that mattered the most, I wasn’t just able to score good grades but it also allowed me to distribute my time to other activities. I would study, get good grades, maintain a social life and work on any side projects that I wanted.

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Most people thought that I’m awfully lucky or gifted, but the secret behind all of this was simply the ability to discern valuable from the useless.

If that’s something that you want to learn, I’d urge you to look around yourself and see what sort of learning activities or topics take most of your time but are of least importance for your goal, be it getting a good grade or succeeding at your business venture. If the task doesn’t contribute to your goal, it’s not worth spending your time on.

7. Bold Attitude

Successful learning requires a bold attitude.

I know it sounds absurd. But not everyone has the courage to learn everything.

A lot of people are intimidated by the time and effort required to learn a skill or a subject. And that intimidation holds them back from even taking that first step. They look at the mountain worth of input required and avoid the whole task in itself.

As I mentioned above, nothing worth learning is learned in a day or two; and successful learners understand that. To excel in their field, they take on a bold attitude that embraces hardship and uncertainty.

8. Questioning

The key to effective learning is to question the matter. In fact, a recent study showed that elaborative interrogation (or self-questioning) is a useful learning method.[2]

By questioning yourself and your logic, you’ll uncover aspects of the topic that you didn’t even know existed.

What’s more, you’ll notice that by questioning while you learn, you’ll be able to look at the concept from a variety of angles and point-of-views which will help you attain perspective.

In order to use this technique, set aside some extra time to ponder and question yourself about what you’re trying to learn.

When you do that, go into specifics and ask yourself questions that you probably don’t know the answer to. You’ll be surprised to notice that most answers just pop into your head once you actually question yourself.

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9. Following Routines

In a world full of distractions, managing one’s time is one of the most useful techniques to learn.

And when it comes to time management, there’s nothing better than the good’ol daily routine.

Almost all of us have a mental to-do list in our heads as we go about our day. However, what a lot of us lack is a routine and a priority order for that list.

Successful learners, however, are great at creating and following routines that help them maximize their learning and implement it in daily life.

Another aspect to consider here is that this ability of following routines stems from high self-discipline. A lot of people are great at creating routines, just not so much at following them. And that’s all that matters.

Take a look at these Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You.

10. Sticking to Their Learning Style

There are many different types of learners in society. Some people learn best by listening while others write things down. Then there are individuals that like to have a hands-on learning experience.

The thing about successful learners is that they know what sort of learning style works best for them. This allows them to focus their learning methodology according to their preferred style so they can maximize their learning.

If you’re unaware of the major learning styles, here are a few:

  1. Visual Learners
  2. Auditory Learners
  3. Reading/Writing Learners
  4. Kinesthetic (hands-on) Learners

As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information more effectively.

So here you are, 10 things you can learn from the successful learners in order to become a faster and smarter learner.

More on Learning Fast

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on April 15, 2021

9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

You have probably heard of the saying, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”

That old cliché gets thrown around quite a bit in educational circles, but what really goes into inspiring people to become independent, lifelong learners? Read on to learn more about self-regulated learning and how to make it more effective.

Self-Regulated Learning

One theory about teaching people how to learn is through self-regulated learning. In the broadest sense, it’s the idea that individuals should set their own learning goals and work independently and with a sense of agency and autonomy to achieve those goals. It’s the opposite of a teacher handing out a worksheet and students completing it just because the teacher told them to.

Self-regulated learning is constructive and self-directed.[1] Instead of the worksheet example, self-regulated learning involves the students setting their own learning goals, deciding how to best achieve those goals, and then systematically and strategically working toward them. Teaching strategies like the Workshop Model and Portfolios are more aligned with self-regulated learning than a one-size-fits-all worksheet or lecture.

Workshop Model

The workshop model consists of three parts. Class begins with a mini-lesson, then students spend time working independently while the teacher circulates conferencing with students. Finally, the class ends with some kind of summary derived from what students learned through their independent work.

Heavy hitters in the workshop model are Lucy Calkins and Nancie Atwell.[2][3] Their work has been instrumental in spreading best practices so that teachers know how to create truly student-led learning experiences.[4]

Portfolios

Another example of an instruction that’s moving toward self-regulated learning is student portfolios. Students set learning goals and periodically reflect on whether or not they’re achieving those goals. They keep all their reflections and student work in folders and have periodic conferences with their teacher on how they’re pressing toward their goals.[5]

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The problem though is that the workshop model and portfolios require a different mindset and skillset from teachers. That’s where the theory of self-regulated learning comes in.

3 Elements of Self-Regulated Learning

One approach to self-regulated learning is to break it down into three components: regulation of processing modes, regulation of the learning process, and regulation of self. Dividing self-regulated learning in this way helps teachers know how to best help students work toward their individual goals, and it also gives us a glimpse into how we all can become more self-regulated learners.

1. Regulation of Processing Modes

The first step in self-regulated learning is to give learners a choice in how and why they’re learning in the first place.

In our worksheet example, students are completing the task because the teacher said so, but when we reset why we’re learning in the first place, we’re starting to create a foundation for self-regulated learning.

One educational researcher, Noel Entwistle makes a distinction between three different reasons for learning, and his work makes what we’re all working toward a lot clearer. Students can try to reproduce or memorize information, they can try to get good grades, or they can seek personal understanding or meaning.[6]

The goal of self-regulated learning is to encourage students to move away from the first two learning orientations (following orders and trying to get good grades) and move toward the third, learning for some kind of intrinsic gain—learning to learn.

2. Regulation of Learning Process

The next level of self-regulated learning is when students are in charge of their own learning process. This is also known as metacognition. Studies have shown that when teachers do most of the heavy lifting—deciding what’s working and not working for each student—there’s a reduction in students’ metacognitive skills.[7]

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When I was teaching middle and high school, we had a saying that if we left the building at the end of the school day more tired than the students, we hadn’t done our job. What that means is that teachers have to find a way to get students to do the heavy lifting of metacognition—thinking about thinking. And students need to accept the challenge and become curious about what’s working and not working about their individualized and (at least, partially) self-generated learning plans.

Boosting metacognition might include learning about how the brain works, what metacognition is all about, and all the different learning styles. Becoming curious about your individual strengths and learning preferences is crucial in beefing up your metacognitive skills.

3. Regulation of Self

Finally, there’s goal setting. If students are going to become truly self-regulated learners, they have to start setting their own goals and then reflecting on their progress toward those goals.

How to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

Now that you’ve learned the important elements of self-regulated learning, here are 9 ways you can make it more effective for you.

1. Change Your Mindset About Learning

The first way to become a self-regulated learner is to change your mindset about why you’re learning in the first place. Instead of doing your schoolwork because the teacher says so or because you want the highest GPA, try to move toward learning to satisfy your curiosity. Learn because you want to learn.

Sometimes, this will be easy, like when you’re learning something on your own that you’ve self-selected. Other times, it’s tougher, like when you have a teacher-selected assignment due.

Before mindlessly completing your assignment, try to find “your in.” Find what’s fascinating about the topic and cling to that as you complete it. Sure, you need to complete it to graduate, but by finding the morsel that’s interesting to you, you’ll be able to start experiencing a more self-regulated kind of learning.

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2. Explore Different Learning Styles

There are lots of different ways to learn: auditory, visual, spatial, and kinesthetic. Learn what all those styles mean and which ones feel especially effective for you.

3. Learn How Learning Works

Another great way to become a more self-regulated learner is to learn how learning works. Read up on cognitive science and psychology to figure out how we form memories, how we retain information, and how our emotions affect our learning. You have to understand the tools you’ve been given before you can wield those tools most optimally.

4. Get Introspective

Now it’s time to get introspective. Do a learning inventory and reflect on when you’ve been most and least successful in your learning.

What’s your best subject? Why? When did you lose interest in a subject? Why? Ask yourself tough questions about how you learn, so you can move forward more strategically.

5. Find Someone to Tell You Like It Is

It’s also helpful to find someone who can be honest about your learning strengths and weaknesses. Find someone you trust who will be honest about your learning progress. If you lack self-awareness about your learning style and abilities, it’s difficult to be a self-regulated learner, so work with someone else to start becoming more self-aware.

6. Set Some SMART Goals

Now it’s time to set some learning goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They’re a great way to become a self-regulated learner.[8]

Instead of just saying, “I want to get better at Spanish,” you might set a SMART goal by saying “I want to memorize 100 new Spanish vocabulary words by next week.” Next week, you can test yourself and measure whether or not you’ve achieved your goal.

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It’s difficult to see how we’re progressing and learning when our goal is vague. Setting SMART goals gives you a clear barometer for your learning.

7. Reflect on Your Progress

Goals don’t mean much unless you measure your progress every now and then. Take time to determine whether or not you’ve achieved your SMART learning goals and why or why not you did. Self-reflection is a great way to boost self-awareness, which is a great way to become a self-regulated learner.

8. Find Your Accountability Buddies

Armed with your goals and deadlines, it’s time to find some trustworthy people to help keep you accountable. Now, your learning progress is your responsibility when you’re a self-regulated learner, but it doesn’t hurt to have some friends who know what your goals are. You can turn to this trustworthy group to discuss your learning progress and keep you motivated.

9. Say It Loud and Proud

There’s a phenomenon where we’re more likely to attain our goals when we’ve made them public.[9] Announcing our goals helps hold our feet to the fire. So, figure out a way to make your learning goals known. This might mean telling your accountability buddies, your teacher, or maybe even a social media group.

Just know that you’re more likely to succeed when you’re not the only one who knows what your goals are.

Final Thoughts

Self-regulated learning is learning for learning’s sake. So, change your entire attitude about why you’re learning in the first place. Choose what you want to know more about or start with what interests you most when assigned a topic or project.

Then, set SMART goals and periodically reflect on your progress. Self-awareness is a skill that can be practiced and improved. Make learning your job and your responsibility, and you’ll be well on your way toward becoming a self-regulated learner.

You’ll never need to blame your learning struggles on someone or something else. Instead, you’ll have the self-awareness and abilities to be able to take your learning into your own hands and find a way forward no matter your current situation and limitations.

Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

Reference

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