How good are you at learning? Do you soak up new informationÂ like a sponge? OnlyÂ need to hear it or see it once, and it’s second nature? Can you flip through a complicated technical manual and immediately understand how operate a piece of machinery you’ve never seen before? Would you be able to watch a documentary on the History Channel and then take an graduate level essay exam the following day?
Or do you struggle? I remember when I was a kid learning long division for the first time. It was horrible. I had no idea what those stupid boxes were for, and how in the heck did my teacher know what numbers to write on top? Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? You hear a word that means something, then immediately forget it after you say it a few times?
Most people experience a mix of the above styles of learning. You can learn easily in some subjects, and sometimes it takes a little effort to learn other things. Most people assume that it’s the subject matter. You might hear people say that they are good in math, but terrible in English. Or fantastic at playing the trombone, but absolutely horrible at juggling. The truth is, there is a lot more that goes into learning than most people realize.
Teachers, environment, diet, how much sleep you got the night before, your own preferred learning style all play a part in how well you can learn things easily. Something that I’ve started really learning about recently is the difference between structure and content. In the above examples, the content would be the actual subject, like long division, and the structure would everything surrounding how the content was delivered.
Believe it or not, the same content can be really easy, or really difficultÂ depending on the structure, or how the content is delivered to you. For example, if you are operating on a good nights sleep, haven’t eaten any high sugary foods recently, are sitting in a comfortable position with your back fairly straight, and learningÂ from a teacher that is speaking slowly and clearly, you will likely to learn fairly easily.
However, take the same subject and try to learn it while you are hungover, next door to a construction site, and the teacher has just been dumped by their significant other, you might have some problems.
Similarly, your mindset can have a profound effect on your learning capacity. Whether or not you think something will be hard or easy. How motivated you are to learn. If youÂ only focus on the positive benefits ofÂ knowing the material, or if you are only focus on the difficulties you expect.
Ask yourself a question, and pay attention to the answer. How good of a learner are you? Or you can try it this way. Say the following and pay attention to any internal responses: “I easily and naturally learn things quickly with little conscious effort.” How did that feel? Did you hear a little voice saying “No Way!”
If you did, don’t worry. Most people only focus on the material, and not the fantastic realization that as you change your mindset about your own learning, you can change how easily you can learn something new. The more you realize that changing the structure can have a profound effect on how easily you can learn the content, the easier it will be to learn anything you want.
Of course changing external structures like described above (being hungover next to a construction site) are fairly straightforward to remedy, but what about your internal learning structure?
One fantastic way that I’ve gotten fantastic results is from the Personal Genius ParaliminalÂ from Learning Strategies. Listening to that CD sporadically over the past several weeks has given me a fantastic new way to look at reality itself. You can use the CD two ways, either for a specific learning task, such as a new language, or learning a sport, or learning how to operate a new piece of machinery. Or you can use it in a general sense, as I have been doing.
Personally I’ve become very interested recently in being able to switch back and forth between content and structure forÂ different aspects of life.Â This CD has been a fantastic godsend. Like the other Paraliminals, itÂ uses a hypnotic technique called dual induction, along with some other technologyÂ to lower your brainwaves into a receptive state. Then it proceeds to deliver the message that will help you to wrap your mind around whatever particular learning opportunity you find yourself presented with. I highly recommend it.
If you’d like to read more, you can check it out here.