Learning can be learned

Learning versus intelligence - is this one and the same, or completely different?

Some believe that being a good learner is related to intelligence, and you either have it or you don’t. Others are more in tune with the fact that learning is an applied skill – something we can all do with some discipline, not just those born with high IQs.

In today’s society where technological and other change happens at such a pace, none of us can afford to give up on the idea of learning. Learning is as much a constant as is change. And we need to master both.

But how do you train yourself to learn, especially if you haven’t practiced this skill lately?

As with many things in life, you can’t start to execute your plan without first setting out what you want to achieve. So the first step is to set yourself achievable goals about what you want to learn. Because the second step is to put together a plan to fulfil those goals, be realistic at this stage about how many things you can learn and how fast.

Next, break your goal down into manageable steps. For example if you want to learn a new language – Spanish or Chinese – then list out what you will do the first week e.g. sign up for a language class, the second week – practise your homework on someone else who speaks that language etc.

The key to moving forward is removing any negative self-thoughts during this process. These only get in the way of learning and absorbing new knowledge.

When you reach each of the steps, congratulate and reward yourself – this can be as easy as saying to yourself – "well done".

Another key practice during your learning journey is to reflect on your learning. You may have come out of your language class thinking that you have this week’s lesson sorted. A good idea is to reflect on this the next day and ask yourself whether you do understand it or remember what the class was about.

A small amount of distance in time and environment is pivotal to being able to reflect objectively. How many times have you wrestled with a problem at work, while the solution suddenly appears when you’re driving home or having a swim? You probably won’t be surprised that reflection often comes at calm, introspective moments. We’ve all been in situations where we need to learn something new or approach something differently, but when we’re busy or overwhelmed we never quite achieve what we hope to.

The key message here is that learning can be learned! As with many things, it takes planning and effort, but the results are definitely worth it.