Learning Strategies and Attitude Are The Most Important Factors For Learning
How many times have you tried to learn for good through effective learning strategies and you heard the saying, "You can't teach old dogs new tricks"? The idea is older people have a tougher time learning because of some sort of physical or mental limitation. At least that's the hidden assumption. I'm not going to say this straight on your face. People have a little bit more class and sensitivity on that. Whenever you hear that phrase, you know that is the assumption. There is something fundamentally different about older brains than newer brains.
The good news is none of that is true. You can teach old dogs new tricks because it really all boils down to the willingness to learn. It has little to do with mental capacity. In fact, if you're looking for tried and proven track record of success, older workers and executives deliver more value on a dollar per dollar basis than newer workers. Why do you think older workers are paid more? Why do you think older executives or more experienced workers get paid top dollar? Employers are not just wasting their money. They know how the game works.
This is why you need to understand that mental capacity is not the big issue when it comes to older people learning new concepts. Instead, it's all about their attitude. Their attitude can hold them back. If you're an older person and you're trying to wrap your mind around a new concept that can take your business or career to the next level, listen up. The good news is that there's nothing wrong with you. You have the right mental capacity to successfully incorporate new ideas. You have to just work on your attitude. Here are some tried and proven learning strategies for older individuals. Stick to these techniques and you will be able to learn like a young person.
Assume first principles about effective learning strategies
The first thing you need to do when faced with a new concept is assume first principles. In other words, don't focus on its ultimate practicality and how it ties into what you are currently doing. Don't obsess about how you can tie it to stuff you already know. Instead, be curious about what it is based on first principles.
For example, somebody is going to introduce to you the concept of chess. You should focus on what chess is like as a game. What is involved in chess? What is it testing or stimulating? In other words, pay attention to the preliminary details of the concept instead of instantly and instinctively trying to plug it into the knowledge you already know. This is a common mental habit engaged in by older people. That's why they end up filtering a lot of very important information which prevents effective learning.
Set aside pride and ask why to learn more quickly
As an older person, you probably feel that a lot of people assume you are smarter and more experienced. Accordingly, you feel that you have to conduct yourself a certain way. You're really afraid of looking like a fool by asking basic questions. You need to set that aside. If you are truly serious about learning new concepts, you have to overcome your pride.
Learn to ask why. Pretend you're two years old all over again and you're asking your parents, "Why is the sky blue? Why is the water wet? Why? Why? Why?" The more you ask why regarding a new concept, the easier it would be for you to become comfortable with it and to incorporate it to what you already know. Most importantly, put it into practice.
Constantly connect the dots
Once you have done the first two steps above then you need to connect the dots. When you connect the dots, you basically are taking the information you already know and relating it backward to stuff that you already know. Unfortunately, a lot of people get so intimidated by the newness of an idea that they overlook the fact that the seemingly new idea actually has many different parts they are familiar with. They are completely blind to that familiarity. They just focus on the stuff that seems foreign, new and challenging. Not surprisingly, their mind blanks out at certain spots. They don't learn as much as they could.
Figure out the big picture
When you learn a new concept, you can bet that it's always connected to something bigger. Figure out the big picture. If you're having difficulty with certain parts of the new concept you're trying to learn, look at the big picture. Look at the context. Knowing what you know now and building on your past learning experiences, focusing on the big picture might make things much clearer for you. Some people learn from the bottom to up. Other people learn from the top to down. What really matters is that you learn. Don’t' worry about feeling bad. You need to look at the big picture immediately. Instead, focus on what makes sense as far as your learning speed and effectiveness go.
Focus on implications and implementations
Older people tend to be more experienced. Accordingly, you tend to instinctively focus on implication and implementation. Use this tendency to work in your favor by looking at a new concept and focusing on its implications and implementations. If you're able to do that, you'd realize that this seemingly new concept isn't so scary after all. A lot of what goes on within, beside and around this concept actually connects with a lot of the stuff you've done before. If you've successfully thought of implications and implementations in the past, what's stopping you from taking this new concept and plugging it into that same thinking pattern?
Review by connecting the dots backwards and forwards
This is where older people tend to run circles around younger people. Younger people have a tough time projecting backwards. After all, they're not that experienced. Since you've been around the block a few times, when you come across a concept, you can easily connect the dots backwards. You can connect it to things you've done in the past. You can think of the implications and implementations of bad ideas and good ideas from the past. You have this built-in advantage younger people don't. They can only project forward. Your challenge is to do both. You have a backwards projection locked down. What you need to work on is forward projection. What are the forward implications of this particular new concept? What future dots does it connect to?
Allow yourself to be surprised
As mentioned above, the big difference between younger and older people as far as learning new concepts are concerned is one of attitude. If you are the type of person who believes that if you've seen one thing, you've seen it all, you need to adjust your attitude. You have to allow yourself to be surprised. You have to allow yourself the mental luxury of thinking that there is such a thing as something completely new.
Deep down inside, we all know that this is not quite right. In fact, all new concepts pretty much are rehashes or reconfigurations of older concepts. However, we need to set that aside and allow ourselves to be surprised. You have to adopt a mindset where things can be new. If you're able to recapture some of your earlier childlike sense of wonder, you'd be surprised as to what you can learn. In fact, the human mind is an infinite learning machine. You can tap into its tremendous learning power if you allow yourself to. It all boils down to attitude.