4 Ways to Abide in Order to Learn

Note: This is the second of a two-part post on the value of abiding in patience in order to achieve the best kind of learning. The previous post focuses on the value of this practice, whereas this post focuses on how to actually do it. 

As leaders, we are often called to help others learn.  To grow people in ways that lead to positive outcomes for themselves and for those they impact is our job. Leaders make more leaders. 

And this need to facilitate learning is sometimes hard to figure out how to do because we often have a hard time engaging in it ourselves.  This challenge is often exasperated by the need to check the box of learning. Get it done, now you’ve learned. Check. 

But learning, or continuous learning, that actually leads to the best of results isn’t a check the box kind of thing. It isn’t a one and done activity.  

Once the desire or realization of the need to learn is established, some seemingly counter-intuitive things help our learning and are more often fueled through abiding in a patient process: 


1. First, set right expectations. 

I found this question from In His Image telling of this necessity: “Think of the person that is most likely to try your patience. What wrong expectations might be contributing to your lack of patience with him or her?”

When we are trying to help ourselves or others learn, often our lack of patience sets us up for failure due to unrealistic expectations about the time and commitment needed in order to effectively learn.   

When leading yourself or others in learning, discuss the expectations of time and commitment around that learning before beginning.  Write these down and refer back to them throughout the learning process. 

If you’ve read the previous post connected to this one, for example when reading with my son we establish before we start how much we are going to read (usually a chapter). He then goes and looks at the table of contents in the book to see how many pages there are.  He knows we won’t get up until that chapter is completed, lessening his frustration with unknown and or unclear expectations.


2. Establish routine practice of something that is novel, or you aren’t good at.

Setting up a routine to do something that needs to be learned by doing something hard (you don’t know how to do or you aren’t good at doing) can aid in learning not only in your chosen arena but in others.   

In keeping with my running example, this leads to my son alternating between reading something that is on the level he is reading currently (or even something slightly easier) and reading something that is above his reading level.  The challenge frustrates him, but novel vocabulary helps him in the long run. In addition, he is also charged with writing about the story he reads and using words (even if he misspells them). Writing is not yet easy or routine for him but helps his learning. 


3. Do something that exercises another part of your brain different from where you are actually trying to learn

In general, the left side of the brain controls things that deal with logic and order.  Math and science processing, as well as language processing, take place on this side of the brain, but in different places within the left hemisphere. The right side of the brain controls things that have to do with creativity, emotion and artistic expression.  

Before or after doing an activity that taxes the left side of the brain, some research points to exercising the right side of the brain in some way in order to sensitize that learning, process any emotion that comes with it, and use it in a more holistic way. 

My son draws pictures a lot (we are currently on a kick of drawing houses) and he has started to label the picture with words to indicate things that are in the picture.  Like “roof”, “slide” (yes his houses have slides coming out of them), etc. I believe this helps him encode and use language learning. In addition, he rides his bike to and from his reading teachers house in the summer for reading lessons, and I think this act of movement helps him focus on his lessons better. 


4. Do “nothing”. 

I love this Winnie the Pooh quote: Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”  

When we give our brain time to rest and reflect it leads to optimal synthesis of our learning.  

Getting enough sleep is a major part of this. Our brain forms neural connections while we sleep based on what we learned during the day so we can apply in other ways.  As our son’s neurologist explained to us in simple terms, if you learn the sounds in “cat” yesterday, your sleep helps you process that learning and today you wake up and are better able to connect that the same short “a” sound in cat is also the same in “bat”.  

If we don’t rest and reflect, we can’t maximize the benefits of learning efforts. 


How do you best maximize your learning? 

Mary Ila Ward

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