Learn More Now: 10 Steps to Learning Better, Smarter, and Faster
by Marcia L. Conner
(John Wiley & Sons, March 2004) Paperback ISBN#0471273902
256 p, 28 illustrations.
We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.
—Mary Catherine Bateson
In school, if there were such a category, I could have been voted, “Most likely to succeed if only she can figure herself out.” My teachers’ focus on class schedules and subjects, rather than discovering and experiencing, left me feeling overwhelmed and fearing that I wasn’t motivated to learn. Years later I began a journey of self-discovery, where I found that learning how to learn was my road map to success and that inside each of us is a curious learner, naturally motivated to learn more. Learning about learning can help you understand your family, friends, coworkers, and customers and, most of all, yourself.
This book reveals techniques and conditions to help you learn how to learn about whatever interests you. My focus isn’t on the content of learning but, rather, on the process of learning itself. You might choose to pursue a personally relevant topic or a subject that other people have suggested would improve your life. When you focus on how you learn, you can decide which techniques work best and reflect on how you’ve successfully learned things in the past.
The motivation inventory in this chapter provides an opportunity for you to discover what drives you to learn and what might hold you back. Then you can decide how to adjust your circumstance to address your needs. Once you know your own motivations and can better understand those of the people around you, you can improve most anything you do.
Motivation is the force that draws you to move toward something. It can come from a desire or a curiosity within you or can be from an external force urging you on. In either case, you make the decision to seize or to skip a chance to learn.
When learning seems interesting, fun, meaningful, or relevant you don’t have any reason to try to understand your motivation. Learning comes naturally. The challenge comes when you aspire to learn something that’s not particularly interesting, when you have only a few choices, or when you lack adequate support, respect, or encouragement. In those situations, learning and finding the motivation to learn more can be tough. It’s easy to think you just lack motivation.
That’s not really possible, though. We’re all equally motivated and we’re always fully motivated. With the exception of involuntary anatomical processes, such as your heart beating, your blood flowing, or breathing in and out, everything else we do is motivated.
If you stopped reading this book now, it would be inaccurate for me to say, “You’re not motivated!” For some reason, you’re motivated to stop reading. That motivation was stronger than your motivation to continue.
The same could be said when you’re trying to learn something from your wife, a colleague, a teacher, or a parent and you keep thinking about dinner or what to watch tonight on television. It isn’t that you’re unmotivated to learn—you’re just not motivated to do what someone else wants you to do at that moment. Something else is drawing you (motivating you) to focus on dinner or the TV.
It could also be that you’re motivated to avoid the aggravation you feel when someone seems to be wasting your time or you have a gnawing suspicion that you will never understand something. You don’t lack motivation; you lack confidence in success—and that drives your motivation elsewhere, to avoid the feeling or the fear. It’s not that you were unmotivated. You were probably super-motivated. Consider how much motivation it takes to ignore something right in front of you!
Motivation styles vary for different situations and topics but you rely on one primarily. Some people learn in order to achieve a certain goal. Some people learn for the sake of learning, and other people learn for the gratification they get from meeting people in learning settings.
At other times, you might like being part of a group, even if your primary style is learning-motivated. Likewise, you might go wholeheartedly after a goal, even if your primary style is relationship-motivated. Many of us have learned how to be goal-motivated because our society places a premium on meeting goals.
Whether you’re goal-motivated, relationship-motivated, or learning-motivated, it’s helpful to recognize your predominant motivational style so that you can identify the situations that best satisfy your needs.
Are you goal-motivated? Goal-motivated people look at learning as a way to solve problems, pursue particular interests, and accomplish clear-cut objectives. If you’re goal-motivated, you probably believe that you should use what you know. You might ask “Why else would anyone bother learning it?” If you’re goal-motivated, you’ll probably reach for your goals through a direct and obvious route. This might lead you to a reference book, to a computer, or to call an expert—whatever means available. You usually prefer meeting in-person only when it’s the most effective method to get what you need, and you probably don’t find learning, in and of itself, much fun.
Goal-motivated skills are required to complete any project. School, for instance, rewards students for being goal-motivated—for turning in their assignments on time, neatly written, and properly punctuated. Accomplishing goals is perhaps the most valued and necessary motivation in our society. Therefore, most of us develop some goal-oriented skills, whether or not that’s what motivates us.
Are you relationship-motivated? Relationship-motivated learners get involved because they like the social interaction that learning offers. If you ask them why they suppose people want to learn, they may make comments like, “People learn so they have more to talk about with other people,” or, “They want to meet people who care about the same things they do.” If you’re relationship-motivated, you learn mainly for social contact. When you meet and interact with people, you learn things at the same time. You may not like working independently or focusing on topics (separately from the people) because that doesn’t give you the interaction you crave.
If you’re a relationship-motivated person in a work-alone job, you might look for camaraderie in classes because they’re socially accepted places to meet people and make friends. When a class is not available, you probably make your decisions about where to learn according to the personal relationships each opportunity offers.
If you’re relationship-motivated, you might not enjoy solo activities like reading unless there is a social component such as talking about books in a reading group. Likewise, self-study programs probably aren’t for you unless you can also interact in person or online in real time.
Are you learning-motivated? Learning-motivated people seek knowledge because of their deep love of learning anything new. In addition to learning formally in a class or with a group, you are likely to seek out educational programs on television and the radio, read books and magazines, and take in as much information as you can. When you travel, you probably read about your destination before you go and visit every local landmark or curiosity once you get there. If you’re learning-motivated, the practice of learning, itself, compels you. You seek out knowledge for its own sake and you may become frustrated by anything that requires you to spend more time on procedure and process than on actual learning.
Many learning-motivated people have been aware of their preoccupation with learning for a long time. You may even have chosen your job or made other life decisions according to the potential for growth these opportunities offer.
Sometimes life, itself, educes you to learn—and it’s up to you to take advantage of those opportunities. In the event that you still think of learning as only workshops or classes, expand your definition to include conversations with your peers and your children, from books, articles, informal networks, mentoring, coaching, searching on the Internet, television, movies, and even what you learn through trial and error.
Take responsibility for learning from everything. As you begin to understand how you learn you can use anything that happens in your world as a source of, and a resource, for learning more.
This matrix can help you see even more opportunities for learning. It categorizes your options into four different groups.
Formal intentional learning is usually structured for us. Formal unintentional learning happens when we seek out structured activities but are unsure what they will uncover. Informal intentional learning is structured by us. Informal unexpected learning happens in the course of everyday activities.
Begin by asking yourself what you’ve learned recently and in which situations your greatest learning takes place. Are you limiting your thinking to meetings or study? Have you considered seeking out a coach or a mentor, or simply finding time to explore? Might you be experiencing real learning during a walk around the block, a friendly argument with a friend, or a hard look in the mirror? Become mindful of both your formal opportunities and these types of impromptu chances to learn.
LEARN MORE NOW © 2004 by Marcia L. Conner. Published by John Wiley & Sons. Used by permission of the publisher.