You’re excited to learn a subject. And all the incentives are aligned. Still, you’re going to face challenges. It’s the way of the brain. Here are some:
False End Image (FEI)
When you start going over new material to learn something, you often start with a false end image. Say it’s a book. You picture yourself in the future, when you’re done reading it, with extra abilities1 acquired.
But this is a false image to harbor. Because when you’re done, you most likely will not have acquired those imagined abilities. Which will result in disappointment. We don’t want disappointment while learning. We want constant motivation and fun.
So we must set a proper expectation.
A better end image to harbor would be to imagine your abilities just as they are now, but with a few changes:
- You will have better questions to ask.
- Your mind will see more patterns related to what you’ve learned.
- You will have a better idea about where to go next for more.
This Should Be Easier (SBE)
A.K.A You should already know this.
Often, when you’re learning a new subject, you’ll encounter material that you thought you were already good at. But when you try to apply it, you discover that that’s not actually true (anymore).
The unproductive self talk would be: this should be easier or I should already know this.
The productive attitude to summon here is: ok, another opportunity to review this material and reinforce my knowledge.
Too Tired To Learn (TTT)
You’re tired right now. Because you worked hard all day. You feel like your brain contracts the moment you think about learning.
It’s probable that you still have some juice left for some productive learning.
How to find out? Reframe your thinking about learning today in the following ways:
- Pick a time duration that your brain is willing to spend on learning. Say, 20 minutes. Subtract 10% of that. Now we’re at 18 minutes. That’s the minimum you have to do today. Easy.
- In the time allotted in 1, you have a goal: move your learning up one notch from yesterday. Like understanding a key term, or going over a hard concept that needs several go-overs. Up a notch.
- 1 and 2 work because we’re measuring our progress in weeks, not days. Today there’s no pressure to finish anything. But come Friday, you’re on the hook.
What did you learn this week?
Extra abilities are not mastery. Mastery is a different kind of journey. ↩