Monday, April 03, 2006

Open your mind

This is probably the greatest tip I will ever give – not just regarding learning but life in general.

In everything that you do, try to keep an open mind. Do not be so quick to judge.

Some of you may be wondering how this can relate to education at all. Have you found that you have a professor that you just don’t take a liking to, for whatever reason? And from then on, everything that professor says doesn’t even count. Your attention span falls and suddenly shiny things become a lot more interesting. This isn’t hurting them, it’s hurting you. We have to open our minds to different possibilities. We have to realize that maybe this person wasn’t birthed from Satan’s loins. They could have had a very hard life

If you are anything like me, you find that a certain subject (or several) have become anathema to you. Sometimes you find that you hate this subject so much that it is actually causing you to develop a twitch. Upon further reflection, we have to consider the possibility that this material is not that bad. Maybe there is a reason that you are learning it. There is always some interesting material to be found within the course. However, this can only happen if you allow yourself to find it.

Once we are mired in our negative preconceptions about a professor or course, how can we hope to learn anything effectively? So we are basically giving away a huge portion of our marks. For what? Our silly pride and rash decision-making. All that time and effort is being used inefficiently because of our petty conflicts. This is really not worth it.

So then, the question is: How can we resolve this problem? How can we get over our seemingly unwavering contempt, and start learning again?

The answer, like many things in life, lies within us. First we must establish what it is that is preventing us from being receptive. Do you dislike the professor? Why? Do you actually find the material uninteresting, or is just the way it is being presented? In some cases (mine), it is simply that the material is being taught in an unfamiliar way – making it much more difficult to absorb. Even in the case of identifying problems, we must open our minds to all possibilities.

As a side note, I find that I become very quickly agitated when I don’t understand what is being taught at all or if the person is presenting it in a queer way. I thing that you know the feeling I’m talking about.

It is these sorts of feelings that can distract from the real origin of the “barrier”. Initially it may seem that the professor’s beard is too long and distracting or their accent is too thick. These might be small problems but they are not the true sources of the barrier. Thus, we must be careful when assessing the problem, and once again: Keep our minds open.

Once we have identified the problem, we have to work towards a realistic solution. If the material is being taught in a weird way, then something must be done to improve comprehension. Possibly previewing the material will help, maybe more time needs to be spent on this subject.

After that all you can do is continue to work dedicatedly. A lot of people won’t like hearing that, but this is the way things are.

As well, I wanted to mention that there are many more applications of this to learning and life in general, without making this a 2000 word post, I’ll briefly address them.

Even in the knowledge we have already acquired, we have to remember that we are not always right. It is possible that we haven’t learned a concept completely, or that we learned it improperly. So if someone comes along and challenges your knowledge, do not simply ignore this person because “they must be wrong”. Instead, investigate further to see if there is some merit to their point. Then change your brain accordingly.

After reading that paragraph again, I see how that can apply quite nicely to learning and life.

Further, we must keep our minds open to new ideas. Maybe the way we perceive the world could use a tune-up. Maybe we don’t know the best learning technique. Maybe we don’t know everything.

Maybe if we keep our minds open and stay receptive, we can learn more about the world and ourselves.

On a more interpersonal level, please do not be so quick to judge people. I find that people (including myself, even 5 minutes ago) are too quick to assume the worst about others. This can only result in trouble.

Once we have a negative image of a person in our mind’s eye, we react to that image accordingly. We start treating that person poorly; they react to that as expected. This begins to breed poor relationships with those around us.

Maybe if we were to assume better of everyone, or at the very least reserve judgement for much later, then all of our relations would be good ones. And that sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

So think about it, look how much we can get just from keeping an open mind: elimination of silly learning barriers, a new understanding of ourselves and the world, better relationships with others… and that’s just what I could fit into this post (which is already way too long).

All of this, for the low, low price of 3 payments of $14.99 $0.00. What an amazing bargain!

Call now, operators are standing by.

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