Posted by: Gillian | January 3, 2008

Learning goals for the resolution-shy adult

If New Year’s resolutions starting ‘This year I will learn to…’ just make your heart sink, I am not surprised. I, too, can write the words on a piece of paper or, more likely, in a computer file and instantly feel that has condemned that particular idea to death. Tomorrow, something will happen to prevent me getting started and then I’ll have a different idea the day after that and then the bookshop will be shut or the computer will be on the blink (again). It’s wonderful how soon a written New Year’s resolution can gather dust. Still, there must have been the germ of a desire to learn in there somewhere when I, or you, wrote that one-line resolution. What is more, I bet neither of us have stopped learning as that is almost a human impossibility – unless we are faced with trying to pre-set the video recorder, in which case may I and several thousand others please be allowed to learn something else instead? For the resolution-shy and those who refuse to be told what to learn (even by themselves) here are some introductory ideas for keeping active learning alive. None of the points are compulsory so just skip the ones that, to you, seem a waste of time.

10 Tips to keep on learning

  1. Remind yourself you are adding to what you already know – even if the topic is quite new to you, you already have a store of other knowledge and skills
  2. Some people feel more ‘bossed about’ by spoken words than by written ones and some react in exactly the opposite manner so use pen and paper or talk/imagine yourself through the next stages as you prefer.
  3. Write down what you want to do, however unlikely it may sound e.g. “I want to read the carved texts on the Ancient Egyptian monuments” or “I want to design an eco-friendly and cheap method of heating/cooling my house”. Use pictures, rather than words, if you prefer.
  4. If you know why you want to do this, write that down as well but certainly don’t give an answer just because it looks good or pleases someone else.
  5. Have a quick think: what associated skills, interests or knowledge do you have that will help?
  6. Grab a pen and a piece of paper or power-up a mindmapping program and write or draw how what you want to do fits with what you already know or do. (In some cases, you will have numerous links, in others you may only have, “Read English. Look up things on the internet.”) Do not worry about getting everything down – the key is to reassure yourself that you do have some sort of base and that the new topic will be in addition.
  7. Take one of those things you can already do and use it to take one step toward whatever you want to do. If that sounds vague, it is intended to be so, Your first step may not be what others see as ‘logical’ or ‘right’, it may just seem fun or be a bright idea that springs from your drawing.
  8. When you have taken that step and finished for the day, add your new knowledge to your drawing/mindmap/list.

That’s the hard part done.

9. Keep the paper in a drawer or on display as you like. Look at it occasionally and top it up with new records, new ideas.
10. Above all: if you start out learning Ancient Egyptian and end up designing a heating system: celebrate! You had no resolutions to stop you.

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