Being a slow learner can fast track your success
by Jacquie Wise
Have you ever tried to learn something, only to find it takes forever, doesn’t sink in and you just give up? Do you criticise yourself for being a ‘slow learner’? It could be the way to fast track your success.
Here’s a different view on how we learn that will change your expectations and encourage you to be patient with yourself as you learn.
Bernie Neville, is an expert on education and learning amongst other things, and is the author of a book called “Educating Psyche” in which he describes how we learn.
If you’re trying to learn something, this view will change your approach and encourage you to be patient with yourself as you learn.
If you’re a leader or trainer, it’s essential to be aware of these stages so that you can change your expectations if someone just doesn’t ‘get it’.
If you’re involved in managing change, or are part of a team, keep in mind that each person will be at a different stage of learning; certainly at a different stage to you. As a leader, you may be at the Verification stage, but they are likely to be only at the Preparation stage.
This is the value of constant consultation during the change process. Those involved or affected will be better able to keep up with what is going on as the changes are implemented.
In Nevilles’ view, there are four stages of learning. Here’s a simplified version of the main concept.
Stage 1 Preparation
This step is where you discover something for the first time, for example a new idea about communication or computer skills, or you learn something to do with your university studies.
Learning processes apply just as much to learning about life, about yourself, or to developing ‘street smarts’.
It is commonly thought that, when we’ve completed our studies and have learnt how to do something, we now know it. But in reality, the real learning has not yet occurred.
Stage 2 Incubation
This stage is when the ideas and knowledge ferment in you. Just like a fine wine needs time and the right conditions to develop.
Concepts with which you are familiar only in theory need time to settle into your consciousness, before rising to the surface when you’re ready.
Your learning process is affected by other people or experiences, which may slow you down or speed up the learning. This is where you begin to try out some of the ideas, but you’re still not sure exactly how it’s meant to work. It’s not yet natural to you. You may discard your conclusions as ‘not quite right’.
Many people give up at this stage and think ‘I can’t learn this’ or ‘It doesn’t work’.
It helps, at this stage, to accept that ambiguity is part of the process. If you can develop a relaxed attitude to slow learning, you’re more likely to invest the energy it takes to experiment and keep trying until you finally ‘get it’.
Stage 3 Illumination
This is when you have an ‘ah ha!’ moment. What you’ve learnt crystallises into a concept you can apply with good judgement. You’re likely to feel really elated about this piece of knowledge that feels like a significant insight.
In this stage, theory, understanding and application are integrated. You might already have experienced a sudden insight. I see it all the time with my clients.
When I first mention a concept, I often get resistance. If my client is willing to play with the idea, resistance softens to doubt as they learn the principles.
I just wait for the information to incubate. When my client comes up with the idea as their own, I know they’ve fully integrated it and are ready to apply it.
Stage 4 Verification
Your learning doesn’t stop there, though. What if the conclusion you’ve drawn is wrong, or even just a little off the mark?
You need to check the validity of your reasoning by trying it out in practice. As you apply the technique, you’ll refine it and be better able to adjust it as you deal with different people or apply it to different situations. You rewrite the rules of this new game as you go.
It takes time to get good at something.
Don’t worry about not ‘getting it’ right away.
While you may know about a certain idea, have seen it done and have tried it many times, remember that there’s still a learning process going on.
Everyone is a ‘slow learner’.
People who seem to ‘get it’ right away have simply done a bit more preparation, integration, illumination and verification.
So be patient and allow yourself however long it takes for you to go through the four stages of learning at a pace which will allow the concepts to be fully imbedded in your psyche. Before you know it, you will be fast tracking your success.
Would you like to improve your level of success? Would you like some assistance? If so, contact me directly to arrange a convenient appointment time.
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