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.
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.
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.
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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