1. Get Curious
Curiosity is one of the most powerful forces in existence, because you can’t learn anything unless you are curious about it. And the good news is that our innate sense of curiosity is insatiable; it is possible to get curious about almost anything if you engage it with your imagination. Trying to force yourself to learn without engaging your curiosity is tortuous, laborious, and ultimately ineffective. So whatever learning task you have in front of you, bring your curiosity to bear.
Exploration is the non-directed, interest-based satisfaction of curiosity. It is a process of trying things to see what happens, asking yourself questions and answering them, following interesting paths just to see where they lead. You’ll likely get a feel for an unfamiliar city better by taking a meandering walk through it than by following a guided tour. Take the time to see the material through your own eyes and get a feel for it before worrying about performance or setting agendas.
When you’re ready to learn specific techniques, give yourself plenty of time to practice. Like any new skill, it will be awkward at first and become easier and smoother the more you do it. Allow yourself to be clumsy and inefficient, and just keep going through the process. Before long it will start to make sense, next it will start to be intuitive, next it will start to become easy, and eventually it will become automatic. This lets you incorporate it into your regular thought process and proceed to build higher levels of skill.
4. Give It A Shot
Don’t let getting stumped throw you off track. When you’re exploring your edges you will run into a lot of roadblocks, but let that be a signal to try something new. The harder you try the greater the benefit, as well as the enjoyment. It wouldn’t be much fun to fill in a crossword puzzle with the answer key right in front of you would it? It’s the process of racking your brain and wrestling with the clues that makes it fun and even addictive. Unless you’re repeatedly getting stumped and unstumping yourself, you’re not learning or improving.
5. Get Help
Learning doesn’t need to be an entirely solitary activity, nor should it. We are social creatures and the interaction of communication and cooperation plays an important role in the learning process. Peers can help each other through a process of co-learning, and teachers, coaches, and guides can direct you along fruitful paths. The time to get help is when you are completely stuck and have reached a point of diminishing returns in your process of solo exploration. This is the point where you can benefit the most from peer discussion or from having an experienced guide to reveal tricks and shortcuts and direct your focus to the most fruitful avenues.