Old Dogs Learning New Tricks

Old Dogs Learning New Tricks

Learning new things can be difficult. It becomes even more challenging when the subject matter that you are trying to master is one in which you are not interested. However, this process does not have to be painful writes Dr. Barbara Oakley, in her book Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential.

You can build interest in a topic that you may not like by giving yourself a reason to learn it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could change the content on our web page without having to call your web consultant? Improving your skill set or lifestyle is a powerful motivator. Set a goal of getting from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.

People often procrastinate performing unwelcomed tasks because they often can cause the brain to experience pain and when that occurs, your attention is diverted from what you don’t want to do to something that is more enjoyable.

Use the Pomodoro technique to avoid procrastinating.

  • Avoid distractions: No emails or texts.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes
  • Become laser focused on the task for 25 minutes.
  • Reward yourself after 25 minutes with a cup of coffee, walk, music, etc.)

Dr. Oakley notes that the brain has two modes of thinking that she simplifies as “focused,” in which learners concentrate on the material, and “diffuse,” a neural resting state when new information can settle into the brain. 

In order to learn something new, most people go back and forth between diffused and focused thinking modes. It’s natural and to be expected that you may not understand a new task or topic on the first attempt. Dr. Oakley claims that you need to allow time to allow your brain to move from focused to diffused mode. When it does, your brain has a chance to “consolidate and consider the material from a different perspective.”

Dr. Oakley also notes that when you are undertaking something new that does not come naturally to you, build a collection of neural chunks. Spend time each day working on a problem or the material. It takes time and effort before the task becomes less daunting. Daily practice and development of neural chunks helps you learn anything.


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