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5 Common Misconceptions Which Hinder People From Learning Faster

5 Common Misconceptions Which Hinder People From Learning Faster

So you want to learn another language, HTML coding or marketing? Time dictates that you will have to learn faster and smarter. The only problem is that there are certain misconceptions about learning floating around. Let’s get these out of the way first. We can examine what is wrong with them and look at alternative approaches. Then you will be on the fast track to learn more rapidly and efficiently.

“It isn’t what people don’t know that hurts them. It’s what they do know that just ain’t so.” – Will Rogers

1. There are no shortcuts

Yes, there are! If you think that learning is a long, hard slog, then think again. Whatever your field or area of study, find out who the gurus are and what their advice is to make the learning curve less steep. By consulting the experts, you can find out nifty shortcuts. Did you know that 80% of businesses go to the wall within the first eighteen months? Why? Because most entrepreneurs are not taking product/market fit into account or learning enough about their customers’ needs. A lot of learning needs to take place to reduce that very high figure. One suggestion is to find the top 10 influencers in your industry and then find out what they know and above all, how they went about learning all that knowledge. Find out what books they read and what skills sets they have. Most of them are willing to help and pay it forward. This is an excellent time saver.

As to the actual learning process, you will be able to discover new hacks to get faster results. One study shows that just by doing 15 minutes of physical exercise, you can boost your thinking ability. Get expert advice on memory tips which will help you remember all that new information for longer. Learn to use all the technology and software in your field of study. Practise how to present the information by using mind maps or testing yourself by ‘teaching’ a friend what you have learned. Learn how to put multitasking in its place. No, it does not help you to learn better, most studies show.

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2. Note taking will not really help

Let us imagine you have to get through a ton of reading to complete your MBA or university degree course. Students mistakenly think that taking notes will be a waste of time. But notes are useful. They help you to clarify your thoughts and they are great for revising. If you read in small chunks, they are great for helping you master the concepts and facts. They help you engage with the subject matter and that is an essential part of the learning process.

3. Time management is overestimated

If students feel that they will study best when the mood takes them, they are under exploiting their best resource, time. Once you start to manage your learning time, you are on the road to success. You can establish whether you learn better in the morning or the evening. How long can you study productively? Build in breaks for physical activity and healthy snacks. You will need to dedicate chunks of time to study so that no time is wasted and you will avoid terrible cramming and maybe even resorting to stimulants, which is illegal anyway. Cramming occurs because of poor time management. Stuffing your brain with masses of information is the surest way to forget it!

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 4. Studying grammar and vocabulary is the best way to learn a language

Some teachers and students still pursue the mistaken idea that grammatical knowledge plus mastery of vocabulary will get you proficient in French or German in no time! The research simply does not support this at all. Stephen Krashen is a distinguished linguist and he has always advocated that the most efficient way to acquire language is to understand messages from people’s conversations and what we read. He defines this as “comprehensible input.” Watch him in this 3 minute video where he gives a practical demonstration of his theory.

5. Everyone learns with a different learning style

For many years, teachers have been convinced that learners have a preferential learning style, for example if they are more visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (learning through doing). But there is very little research to actually demonstrate that this is true. But about 90% of UK teachers still believe this is the case. There are still unanswered questions about how people really learn and there are moves to help teachers understand neuroscience in finding these answers. The best solution is for students to discover what gives them the fastest results and helps them climb the learning curve in the shortest space of time.

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The next time somebody asks you about which side of the brain you are using for learning, you could ask them to give you solid scientific evidence that this will affect the learning outcome. At the end of the day, learning is much more straightforward than many people like to think.

Featured photo credit: Learn/Got Credit via flickr.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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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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