In the last post I talked about why it is useful to learn things that we don’t have interest in or even hate. In this post we will discuss how to learn them or at least make the process easier for you. I’ll continue the dialogue I had with my student.
“I thought you told me that you were a dancer,” I replied.
“Yeah I am, so?”
“Well when you want to spin, can you spin faster by spreading out your hands or by tucking them close to your body?”
She thought for a moment, and then said, “Tucking them in. Why?”
“Because,” I said, “that is physics, albeit at a very basic level. You also skateboard. You told me that if you fall, the best way would be to roll if you can. You know that’s also physics right? You’re spreading the energy of the fall over a wider area instead of one small spot.”
“Oh really? I had no idea… That’s actually kind of cool now that I think about it.”
In future tutoring sessions, she actually mentioned these points I brought up as she realized the point that I was making.
Now I admit, I only took conceptual physics in college. I hate math so I didn’t want to do the more advanced stuff (yes even I have things I hate learning). But I can appreciate parts of physics because I see how they can apply to my own life. Let’s face it, there are tons of things we don’t want to learn for school or for work, but learning them have benefits. They can also be interesting in their own rights. The whole idea is that everything we learn is interconnected.
Realize It Can Apply To You
One of the things I hated most when it came to learning math in school was that you were handed a bunch of formulas and you told to plug in a bunch of numbers, solve for X, etc. It drove me up a wall. I had no idea when or why I was going to use what I was learning in class. I only wanted to learn things that would actually be related to what I would do in life, and math was not one of those things.
My senior year in high school I had a math teacher who was absolutely fantastic. He made a point to mention when certain things in math were used and how they’d be applied. Hearing this made me feel like I wasn’t just learning something that was useless and to be forgotten once school was out. I realized what I was learning had value and could be used in the real world outside of school. It also helped that my father who does woodworking explained some math concepts he used when woodworking. Now people that I actually knew were using ideas I was learning about.
These things can apply to you too. Once you realize that this is something that you could actually use, it becomes easier to learn because you know that there is a use to it. If you think you will never use what you are learning, you are essentially telling your mind to be unreceptive to the knowledge, making it only harder for you to learn it for school or work. You don’t want that.
Be Open To Learning It
So if being closed off to something makes it harder to learn something, the opposite must be true: the more open you are to learning something, the easier it becomes for you to learn it. Think about any hobbies you have that you won’t make a career out of for example. If you can solve a rubik’s cube in a 30 seconds, its most likely not something you’ll make much money off of. But it is something you enjoy (or else you wouldn’t have bothered learning to solve it that fast). You are open to learning it because you want to. The time you spent learning how to solve it quickly passed by very quickly, unlike when learning something you hate, where five minutes in reality feels like an hour. So another solution is to make what we are learning seem less miserable. How can we do this with something we dislike?
Solve A Problem/Do Something You Like
I used to hate learning things for Microsoft Excel. Actually, to be honest, I still hate it. Unfortunately for me, I needed it for school as well as just to have some extra skills when looking for a job. Of course the obvious choice was to take a few courses on Excel. I was picky with the courses I chose. I was actually looking for topics/skills/projects in Excel that I thought were cool, even if my Excel skills were inadequate for the course. Choosing courses beyond my skill level might seem like a bad idea, but it helped me a lot. I found something in Excel that I thought was cool and decided to learn. Interest/motivation covered. Then I had to learn a few skills in order to learn that cool thing, but there was a catch. Sometimes there were other tasks I needed to fulfill that the course didn’t teach, thus I had to learn other skills in order to learn the skills to complete said cool task. Not every part of the learning process was fun, but when I saw what I could do with those skills, it was completely worth all the effort.
By the time I finally finished the course, I gained a good amount of skills and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. All it took was me finding something I liked about Excel, and then solving the problems that arose in order for me to complete a project that I liked.
So in a nutshell, when learning a subject that you really don’t like or even hate, you need to find the things about it that you do like. Focus on the positive. When learning, try to find how it can relate to you and your life. More often than not, there are some aspects that do relate to your life or something else that you have learned. On a higher level, don’t just allow the application to be a possibility, make it a necessity. If you need to do something you hate in order to achieve success in an area of your life, suddenly the need to get it done becomes more pressing than the antipathy you hold.