How to Learn (if you’re me and you also don’t really like learning)
When you really think about it, any college student who is at least successful enough to avoid completely flunking all of their classes should be able to write their own manifesto on learning. Sure, you might not be the best at it, me included, but then again only one person is truly the best at it. If you think that you’re that person, then a healthy dose of pessimism might do you well, because the odds are not in your favor. That being said, you surely don’t have to be the best at something in order to at least do it well. My personal process of learning is not likely to be the exact same as someone else’s, so who really cares about my personal learning process? Honestly, it’s me, and I hardly care about my personal learning process. However, I would say that I am certainly a better student, and likewise a better learner, than I used to be, and there are a number of factors that I believe prompted that transition. So, for all of the two people who may actually read this, here’s some advice about how I learned to learn.
Step 1: Be Willing to Learn
For the first few years of my high school career I wasn’t a very good student. I was a bad student. I hated getting up every day and going to classes that I didn’t care about. Even if I had the chance to go back and give myself one piece of advice, I still don’t think it would have mattered. There was nothing that would change my mind. Trust me, between my parents and my teachers, they tried everything. There was no external force in existence with the ability to help me enjoy learning. As cheesy and stupid as it sounds, it had to start with me. Socrates himself couldn’t teach someone who was unwilling to learn. Often times, it’s not as simple as flipping a switch and suddenly being willing to learn, but that brings me to my next point.
Step 2: Do Something you Enjoy
Although it is not impossible to learn and become proficient in a topic that you do not thoroughly enjoy, it does help. I understand that it is not always probable to enjoy all of your classes equally, but when it comes to absorbing the information and honestly learning it, it helps to try. There may be the occasional class where you’re at your wit’s end, and no matter how hard you try, nothing in your power will enable you to enjoy it, and that’s okay. While it is unreasonable to expect the fullest level of enjoyment in every topic, there is a workaround.
Step 3: Appreciation
So, you’ve tried your darndest and given it your all, but enjoyment is nowhere to be found. As much as you might not want to admit it, it’s not the topic’s fault, it’s you. Someone has obviously been able to enjoy that topic, or else you probably wouldn’t be learning about it. What you can do, however, is try to appreciate the topic. Enjoyment, as helpful as it is to learning, is almost fully subjective, and that’s it’s downfall. It is safe to say that somebody at some point in time put in a lot of effort, even devoting the majority of their lives to whatever topic it is that you’re learning. As much as you may not enjoy it, get over yourself, because appreciation is objective.
Step 4: Don’t Try to Get Good Grades
While it may sound counterintuitive, always strictly focusing on getting good grades and passing your classes can often be detrimental to learning. In regard to learning, grades will often cloud your vision, distracting you from the real goal. It is easy to fall into the habit of simply memorizing facts for a test, and then moving all of that information into your internal trash bin. Treat grades not as a means, but as an end. They will come as a natural result of actually learning the information. That means no more, “ummm is this gonna be on the test?” because it doesn’t matter. Worst case scenario, it’s not on the test, and oh no you learned a little more than you needed to.
Step 5: Don’t Let School Get in the Way of Learning
Learning is obviously not something that is exclusive to school, but while you’re in school it can sometimes feel that way. It is easy to fall into a routine where you associate class with learning, and everything else is simply taking a break from class.
Yes, I know, again with the cheese, but you can always be learning. No matter where you are, or what you’re doing, there is something to be learnt from someone. You will sometimes even find that those outside learning sources connect in some way to the classes that you are taking, and then you’re one step ahead of the curve.