Are You a Happy Learner?
Did you grow up finding learning a happy experience? Or were your teachers cruel to you, making you stand in disgrace in the corner for not knowing the answers? Ah, “the good old days!” They weren’t quite so rosy after all. But for all the unhappy times, we did learn a few things.
Teaching people of all ages, I have noticed something. Many people don’t feel happy learning. Instead they find it stressful, anxiety-provoking, and anything but a happy feeling. How can it be so hard? Well, there are a few good reasons why people put being happy and learning at opposite poles:
- Formal learning is paired with performance so it’s frequently an unhappy experience. The pressure is on to get it right. The first time. But how can we do that unless we’ve had plenty of opportunity to practice? It’s a no-win situation, often fed by others criticizing our ability.
- Learning is a test of worth. If you don’t get it right quickly then you must be stupid. Meaning, unless you luck in quick, you won’t feel happy doing it.
- What you’ve already done decides your feelings. Having had grouchy Miss McGruder publicly berate you in class for being a hopeless learner can etch into your memory. So your self-concept decides if you consider yourself the learning type or not. You won’t associate thoughts of school and learning in general with feeling happy if it’s paired with misery.
Fortunately, these obstacles can be overcome by anyone willing to face them. Consider this: learning is a natural and frequently unconscious process. You can’t help but learn! Of course, some things are easy to learn, aren’t they? So build on them first. Instead of conjuring up complex algebra, exams, and difficult concepts to do with learning, picture learning that’s fun. The happy reality is that virtually all learning is doable when you break it down into small steps.
Next, though we all love to be good at things without practice, we need to be patient. Learning often takes time and lots of doing. If you feel relaxed and happy practicing, you’ll learn better. But either way, making mistakes is a vital part of the learning process.
Finally, you are not what you do. Whilst it does reflect on you, you are not how fast you can run, what you wear, or how happy you help others to be. You are a person with integral worth, and that makes you adequate in itself.*
* Adequacy is such a crucial issue, isn’t it? That’s why my book, Happy: How to Have a Beautiful Life Now, is filled with simple yet powerful ways to feel good about yourself. If you’re often feeling less than self-confident, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
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