Monday, July 20, 2020

Learning Is Inevitable

Learning Is Inevitable
Learning Is Inevitable

Your learning endeavors do not end with the end of your studies in school or college.  You are constantly forced to learn the ways of life in order to better adapt. You move into a new city for a job, you will slowly be exposed to different routes, the local language and many other things. Based on these experiences you will end up learning new things. Some people pick up things faster than others even though their experiences might be very similar. Learning is inevitable. “Knowing how to learn” can help you learn quicker, better and avoid frustrations that arise upon new challenges that you have to overcome.

Before we dive into some key points that help in learning better let us understand how learning works. You have the conscious part of your mind and the subconscious part of your mind. Whatever you experience registers in the conscious part of your mind, if the experience is repeated several times it seeps into your subconscious mind. Once this experience is introduced into your subconscious mind, it is going to stay here for a long time. For example, you are learning to play a melody on a piano. You play it once or twice and try to recall it after a week chances are high that you will not get it right. But if you practice several times for a few days, you will build muscle memory and be able to play it right even after a month. So the key here is to repeat an event in your conscious mind so many times that your subconscious mind recognizes it. The event can be anything, few words of a new language you are trying to learn, a new concept, and a new skill like cooking or even a sport like basketball or squash. The goal of learning better is to access new information/skill with ease when needed and this happens when you retain this information in the subconscious and practice accessing it.
1. Spaced Repetition

Repetition is important, but I’m not asking you to cram it all up in a single day. Your repetition should be spaced depending on the task. Take the piano example mentioned above, instead of practicing several times on the same day, try recalling the next day, then recall the day after that. This makes you repeat your new skill as well as recalling the new skill. You will retain information better allowing the practice of recalling new information in better revival and performance. Similarly, if you learn a new concept try to recall it the next day without looking into your notes or textbook. If you do it all on the same day, you overload your brain and integration into long term memory will be inefficient, incomplete and most of the times non-existent.  

2. Mindfulness

This is understanding the point of doing an activity, learning a task. Often when we try to learn new things, the motivation burns out within a few weeks. Remind yourself why you want to learn this new thing. When your intentions and goals are clear you will stick to your plan of learning for a longer time. Mindfulness is not only to understand the why but also to summarize the what of a task. If you attend a lecture at the end of it try to summarize the entire thing in 30 seconds. When preparing for a test, it will be easier. When you are learning a new language, understand why this particular word is used, in what context it is used every time you come across it while interacting with localites or a podcast. . Before sleeping, quickly try to recall whatever you learnt for the day.

3. Don’t Burn Out

Sometimes when you are trying to solve a problem or trying to recall something and find that you are stuck you get angry and frustrated. Facing this challenge is common, instead of fretting take a break. The break should involve an activity that doesn’t strain your mind for example a harmless gossip with some friends, a nap, bounce a ball anything that distracts you from the problem for a bit. After a while come back to the problem, you’ll have a much better perspective and the negatives will have cleared a bit to allow you to work. And if, even then the solution doesn’t hit you go revise read up and research and try to tackle it again after a break. Einstein would actually try to sleep on a chair with magnetic ball bearings in his hand, once fallen asleep the balls would fall from his hand onto the floor making a sound that would wake him up and he would immediately note down his ideas.

4. Sleep

There is a reason why pulling an all nighter isn’t very beneficial. Throughout the day you use your brain to perform different activities. Certain by-product of metabolites accumulate in your brain that are cleared in your sleep. Think of a water filter, you have to clean it out regularly to remove accumulated dirt in order for the filter to filter water efficiently. Similarly, if the metabolic by-products are left uncleared they will have a toxic effect on your brain compromising your efficiency. Hence sleep is very important as it recharges you and clears up accumulated toxins of the day. 

When you learn small things all related to a particular subject or a skill, a pattern starts forming. Your subconscious registers all the small things separately and when you are finally able to connect the dots of these tiny things that add up to the skill you are trying to learn, you will be able to use that information better like performing a test, conversing with strangers in a new language, hence gathering a stronger hold on the subject/skill. Whatever mental block you are facing, be it “I’m too old to learn bartending or coding it’s a new generation thing” or “I wanted to learn this but it is too difficult” get over it because it is not true. Research has shown that new experiences actually give rise to new neurons (nerve cells that transmit signals, play a key role in both brain and nerves) If you repeat the experience, the neuron is more likely to stay and if you don’t the neuron will fade away. Also there is no age limit to growing new neurons, so when you think that you are too old to learn something, it is absolutely false. Even when you get stuck in your way, you are still recalling something, you are using that new neuron. Difficult is not a dead end, there are endless resources to help you get unstuck.

On your journey to learning something, you will find yourself at unease sometimes but don’t give up. Remember to repeat and recall at different intervals, find creative ways of absorbing new information, like listening to songs in a new language or watching conceptual videos, write down what works for you and what doesn’t. Track your progress, it will motivate you so much. So pick a language, a skill, a textbook, gardening, dancing whatever it is that you have always wanted to learn and just start. A little perseverance will get you going a long way.

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Writer: Saloni Bhatia
Idea: Personal Experiences