Learning new things and failing

As a teacher, I spend a lot of time encouraging my students to be unafraid to have a go. I try to emphasise the value of effort, of practice and of gradually learning (even though this is challenging when I’m also trying to stop them from settling for slap-dash work and usually have a very short space of time to get them to a particular standard). The point is that I try to make students feel inspired to aim high, feel safe to fail and feel encouraged to try again.

The irony is that I forget to apply this to myself. I’ve written about this a lot recently¬†with regard to taking opportunities or fretting about things, but I also forget when it comes to my actual learning. I’ve forgotten what it was like when I was child and I regularly learned knew skills from scratch. As an adult, there are many things I wish I understood or wish I could do, but get I impatient and discouraged when it doesn’t come easily and quickly. Because I already have a set of competencies (reading, playing piano (somewhat), driving a car or writing HTML code, for instance) I want to quickly have skill and understanding when it comes to new things I’d like to learn – maybe a new language, guitar, or more advanced web coding. I’ve forgotten that it took time and a lot of practise to learn to match the music notes to the piano keys, let alone to sit down and play even a simple piece of music. I think I’ve lost the art of learning, practising and persevering.

Or perhaps I never had it. Reading and writing came so naturally to me that I can’t remember first learning it. Most of what we were taught at school I absorbed easily. Unfortunately, most of the things that were harder have remained as gaps in my learning because I didn’t know how to tackle things that I couldn’t learn easily. The few things I did really practise and persevere with were usually things where I found the practice itself enjoyable and motivating.

We constantly expect children to learn and practise and improve. We expect them to be unafraid to fail despite the fact that they are often in situations where their failure is obvious, public and compared to others’ success. Then we expect them to pick themselves up and have another go, knowing that they will probably fail embarassingly the next time, too. As adults, I think we spend a lot of time looking for situations where we can do and show what we know and avoiding situations where our ignorance or incompetence will be apparent. If we’re interested in something new and can pick it up easily, then we will sometimes attempt it, but I suspect most of us have forgotten how to learn.

I am compiling a list of the things I’d like to learn, learn properly or learn better. These range from drawing to statistics for psychology and to understanding my car’s engine. Some are discouraging when my skills are not up to my imagination, some are discouraging when I’m learning but not easily understanding or remembering. I think I would like to approach some of these things anew with a learning perspective rather than a succeeding perspective. I will try to remember that every five minutes spent learning about something or practising something counts towards my eventual goal. I will try to remember that it may take some time to reach that goal!

I am also reminded of this when I think about habit building. Even if I am not completely successful with a habit from the start, every effort is still worthwhile.


About Zaiene

Life is large and I am small. Filled with over-complicated thoughts and little tendency towards action, this is me, doing the best I can right now.
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