“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Lifelong learning boosts your brain’s capacity and helps you stay sharper in old age, yet many of us no longer pick up that guitar we bought five+ years ago. This could be because curiosity and the desire to accomplish new things is only the first step to learning. The doing of learning is often accompanied by roadblocks to overcome such as discomfort, fixed mindset, or fear of failure.
Here are 5 common obstacles to learning and 5 ways to overcome and learn at any age:
The Obstacle: It’s Boring.
The Opening: Re-evaluate your Desire.
Why did you want to learn this anyway? Is it possible the reason you originally wanted to play the guitar (impressing that high school gal) has long passed? Learning anything is valuable. So ditch obligatory learning and learn something you have true interest in mastering.
The Obstacle: No Time.
The Opening: Combine Social Time with Learning Time.
Perhaps it’s time to take what Sharan Merriam, professor emeritus of adult and continuing education at the University of Georgia in Athens, calls, “A grown up Field Trip.” Learning with others not only makes it fun, it bolsters your commitment AND relates learning to real life.
The Obstacle: No Motivation.
The Opening: Relate it to Real Life.
See the other obstacle answer to “This is Boring.” If you really DO want to learn this new skill, but still lack the chutzpah, then try tying it to a real life goal. For example, learning to play guitar just to play it forever in your living room, alone, is not always very motivating. Learning to play so you can entertain a boy scout troupe around a campfire adds reality to your task at hand.
The Obstacle: Frustration.
The Opening: Challenge Yourself, But Not Too Much.
According to this Real Simple Article, How to Be a Better Learner, Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University says we have to use the Goldilocks principle. “If a task is too easy, you won’t build knowledge or skills. If it’s too tough, you may get frustrated and quit. So aim for what’s just right: a sweet spot of difficulty that experts call ‘the zone of proximal development.’”
The Obstacle: Failure.
The Opening: Failure IS Learning!
Separate your self worth from your skill set. And remember that you can grow and change, but it takes time and patience. If failure is getting you down, but you really want to keep trying, it’s time to rediscover the fun of learning and reward yourself for small steps in the process. Stay inspired by mixing up how you learn. No need to drill through books, try listening to podcasts, watching videos, taking lessons, classes and self-led fieldtrips. And when you do put in the time, pay yourself in some very small way.
Next time you feel a Why Bother moment come upon you, be sure and try one of these tips. Staying curious and embracing life is never a waste of time.