M2M Day 255: Rewriting my beliefs

This post is part of Month to Master, a 12-month accelerated learning project. For July, my goal is to solve a Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle in one sitting without any aid.

For the past few days, I haven’t been practicing in the most deliberate or focused manner, which I was finally able to admit in yesterday’s post.

This slump in performance wasn’t due to less energy or less willpower or less discipline. Instead, I simply lost my motivation to practice in this way.

With that said, I didn’t lose my motivation for the project as a whole — in fact, I’ve been feverishly solving crosswords every day — but, I did lose motivation for the most structured and important part of my training: The Crossword Trainer.

This loss of motivation came from a loss of belief: I no longer believed that the Crossword Trainer was actually helping me.

As a result, I couldn’t justify to myself in any way that it was worth investing in this training method any further.

However, after a few days of barely using the Trainer, I realized that this was a faulty belief. By way of counterexample / negative space, I was able to once again appreciate the power of and need for this training method, thus rediscovering my motivation.

Today, with this renewed motivation, I was able to spend 90 fully-focused minutes with the Crossword Trainer. Tomorrow, I will do the same.

A more general note: In my eyes, this notion of belief as the driving force of motivation is the foundation of all learning.

Often, we don’t believe that we are the kind people that are good at math, or are good at learning foreign languages, or are artistic/creative/musical, or whatever it might be. As a result, without this belief, we lack the motivation or internal justification to pursue these kinds of endeavors.

But, here are the two important things to remember…

  1. In all the research on expertise, there is no evidence that there are kinds of people who are naturally gifted with aptitudes for particular areas. Instead, we are all just people who each have the aptitude to essentially become good at whatever we want.
  2. Beliefs are just stories we tell ourselves in our brains. The good news about internal stories is that we can rewrite these stories if we chose to.

In other words, as you consider learning something new or while you are in the process of learning something new, it’s important to observe the stories you tell yourself and the beliefs you hold. Recognizing when these beliefs are unfounded is an important step towards more effective learning.

While the belief I’ve held over the past few days originated from a seemingly more analytical place, it was still holding me back. Luckily, I have a tendency to constantly monitor my beliefs, so I was able to reassess and adjust accordingly.

Read the next post. Read the previous post.

Max Deutsch is an obsessive learner, product builder, guinea pig for Month to Master, and founder at Openmind.

If you want to follow along with Max’s year-long accelerated learning project, make sure to follow this Medium account.