Often students ask how they can get interested or how they can stay interested. Despite what parents and some teachers believe, people do want to learn things – or at least they want to know things. By nature, humans are a curious species, always exploring and asking questions. They are constantly looking for something to explain the world around them.
There is a difference between wanting to learn and wanting to know. I’m sure you have met people who “know” things. In fact, these people “know” almost everything!
Of course, it is not true. They just make it up when they don’t truly know. They simply want to skip the line and get to what they perceive as the good bit – the knowing.
Learning takes time and effort – sometimes sweat and tears (although rarely tears if done properly). The learning itself is the journey, and it can be every bit as rewarding as the final destination – knowing. Some people, yours truly included, would argue that this process is the best bit. Not to mention that often “knowledge” changes over time. Not all of the pieces of information that we think are true will remain so over the next hundred years or even the next decade.
We are always learning, adding to what we think, and altering what we “know” to be true and effective. So, let’s get to the crux of this blog article.
How can you stay interested?
Some time ago, I wrote a blog and created a video called Break It Down. That’s what you want to do when faced with a long text or some other project or assignment that is overwhelming you.
You might not realize that you’re being overwhelmed. You might just think that you have no interest in the topic. Numerous times I have seen a student who claimed to have absolutely no interest in a course, topic, or story, who, after some encouragement and time, fell in love with these “hated” learning opportunities. Their fear or trepidation, recognized or not, was holding them back.
I suggest that you start with one small step, blocking off a chapter or even a few paragraphs of text. Read, think, step away and seriously talk to yourself about what you’ve just read. In other words, begin to engage with the material. Using a solid reading method helps (see my blog/video on using the SQ3R method).
It takes a little effort, but engaging yourself with any kind of material is possible. You have to be willing to take that first step, but breaking tasks into smaller components can make the overall project more palatable.
Setting yourself a schedule also helps in this regard- but stick to it.
Connect to yourself
Whenever you are learning something new, or relearning for that matter, try to connect the material in some way with yourself. When I say “you” or “yourself” that extends to the people you know well.
The more you can relate, the more you will increase your ability to absorb the information and then retain it for longer periods of time.
You have probably heard the expression, “She knows it like the back of her hand.” Well, try to make that a reality. There is nothing wrong with being interested in oneself. It is natural, and it is going to be true whether you like it or not – so use this trait to strengthen your learning ability!
When reading Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, who in your life does Romeo remind you of? Does Juliet have characteristics similar to one of your friends, a sister, or a daughter? Do you have some of the characteristics of one or both of these characters or others within the play? Are there incidents that relate? They don’t need to be identical, just enough to weave the characters and plot more securely in your mind.
Map your knowledge onto a network or web. This idea is related to the connecting information to yourself concept mentioned above. Build a connecting network of ideas and information.
In other words, if you are studying a science topic, look for connections to historical facts you know, a fiction story you read, or other science-based information. The connections might be limited but the more you try, the more avenues you will find that link up with one another. Look for similarities in biological processes and mechanical ones (either within science or in other courses such as engineering or mechanics). Be aware of historical events that connect with fiction stories or movies and vice-versa, whether intentionally or not.
Keep this phrase in mind, “That’s just like…”
Of course, it might be more accurate to think, “That’s similar to…” and then elaborate on how these “apparently” disparate bits of information relate to one another.
The goal of all these points is to find your way to engage yourself. You need to enter into the material and allow it to enter into you. If you are always at arm’s length, gaining and retaining information will be challenging.
Be diligent about reducing negative thoughts about learning or past experiences you have had. Opening doors can be scary but so much more rewarding than simply travelling down the same paths every day. The analogy of paths and your brain is real! If you only take the same route all the time, not only will you not learn anything new, it will become increasingly difficult for you to do so. The synaptic pathways will become similar to ruts limiting your adventurous progress.
Let yourself be a part of the learning process. You will see amazing differences not only in the amount of knowledge you receive but also in your own comfort level.
Need more support? Have questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch.