Do you know what stands in the way of your learning? There are many barriers to learning. Difference people face different challenges. As you are trying to identify yours, consider the following common enemies of learning:
- Prolonged stress or depression can affect your memory. People who are under a lot of stress or suffer from depression show elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that appears to shrink the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory and other cognitive functions.
- Lack of sleep can also impair memory and alertness. Sleep allows us to consolidate memories, find creative solutions to problems, re-energize. Don’t sacrifice sleep if you want to learn.
- Negative attitude towards learning can sabotage your efforts. Maybe, school was hard for you and you convinced yourself that you were not up to the task. Perhaps, you study only for external recognition, such as a degree, certification, or promotion, and you don’t value the process itself. Or you feel guilty that you have been a student for far too long instead of making money in the real world. What are your mental roadblocks to learning?
- Irrelevance derails the learning process. Would you rather learn one hundred made-up words that have no use in real life or one hundred words of Italian if you know that you will go to Italy in a month? There are lots of things that compete for our attention at any given moment. The information that is relevant to us and that we can apply in the real world has a higher chance of making it into our long-term memory. Sometimes, the trick is to figure out how to make the material that you are studying relevant to your goals.
- Too much explanation or too little explanation can inhibit learning. Learning happens in stages. When you are given lots of detail up front when you have not had a change to get the basics, you are likely to feel overwhelmed. In addition, our brains are wired to solve problems. We tend to remember things better if we have struggled to find the answer ourselves. That’s why it may be counterproductive to start reading treatises and outlines before you have had a chance to grapple with the issues on your own. On the other hand, the lack of explanation can leave us confused because we haven’t found a way to link the new information to what we already know. As many things in life, it is a matter of balance.
- Poor time management jeopardizes your learning objectives. Learning requires the time commitment not only to acquire new information, but also to review regularly the old material. You must develop a studying schedule and stick to it.
- Lack of feedback hinders learning. If you don’t get feedback, you can’t learn from your past actions and you can’t measure your progress.
- Lack of support creates anxiety that’s not good for learning. We learn better in collaborative environments than in highly competitive ones. If you are afraid of making a mistake or being ridiculed, you won’t take risks and you won’t learn.
What kills your learning?