Self-learning has become a trendy topic as people look for ways to be more productive with their time.
Information is more accessible than ever, and with all this knowledge just a search query away, people are finding self-learning to be more challenging than they might have expected.
Here’s Why Self-Learning is Hard:
Self-learning is challenging because most people struggle to learn new things. We typically are most interested in learning stuff we’re already good at. So when we wander into learning more unknowns about a topic, it becomes uncomfortable and hard.
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This can prevent us from progressing and pursuing topics further.
While there’s nothing wrong with focusing on learning things we know we’ll excel in, there is a problem.
Relying on our limited knowledge and experience will make it harder to learn something we don’t feel confident about. This is why people claim they’re “uncreative,” “introverted,” or “bad at math.”
What are the Difficulties in Self Study?
There are plenty of reasons why self-studying often ends in failure. Here are 2 of the biggest reasons why:
Motivation & Not Interested in Topic
When you are genuinely interested in something, finding time for that hobby or topic becomes pretty simple.
If you enjoy art, for example, and want to self-learn. Finding the motivation to practice drawing eyes, visit different galleries, and study techniques, becomes incredibly easy.
You are simply interested, and you probably have to stop yourself from having it take over too much of your life.
When this motivation and interest it not entirely there, self-learning becomes very challenging. Remember when you were forced to learn different topics in school or university that you weren’t interested in?
It was a hurdle to study these areas, and you probably wouldn’t have finished everything if grades weren’t a consequence.
I believe that self-learners struggle with having a sense of direction, apart from teaching themselves the concept of a subject.
A sense of competition and belonging are also driving factors when it comes to learning. As such, the lack of these motivators becomes a big problem for self-learners.
No Structure (No Deadlines etc.)
Self-learning also comes with the price of having ultimate freedom.
This is amazing since you have the power to decide what, when, and how you can learn, which is incredibly effective.
A lot of people don’t learn best in the traditional sense.
Some are visual learners, others prefer to read and write. There is no correct answer, and self-learning allows you to do what works best for you.
This freedom does come with its downsides, however.
Since you have the power to decide everything, there is no set structure for you to follow.
Everybody needs to have a reason to get something done. In college, you have to submit all assignments on time to pass the subject.
Even in professional settings at work, every task needs to be finished within a given deadline.
You do all of these things because you have to; if you don’t, there are consequences — failing a subject and getting fired.
If these motivators aren’t there, most of us probably won’t put much effort into learning things we didn’t think would be helpful in our lives.
People spend their whole lives doing particular things because they have to — not because they want to.
I finished things on time because I’ve been given a deadline and didn’t want to suffer the consequences.
So What Can You do to Make Self-Learning Easier?
There are a few things that you can do to improve your self-learning journey and make the process easier.
For one, taking online courses allows you to add some structure to your learning of a topic. Typically, online courses are created by an expert in their field.
Learning from them will allow you to have excellent foundational knowledge to build on top of.
Besides online courses, there are some strategies you can implement that can help any self-learning journey.
Here are 6 simple self-learning tips:
Find Your Why and Be Interested in What You are Learning
Remember how motivation and interest were significant reasons why self-learning was so challenging?
They are also substantial reasons for making self-learning easier.
If you can understand the why behind your learning, it will allow you to stay motivated and interested in whatever it is you are learning.
Perhaps you are self-studying to transition to a new job or to be able to start your own business.
Learning a particular aspect of this new job or business may not seem attractive currently. Still, it can pay off huge dividends later when you are doing what you do love!
Aim to keep this in mind, and it will motivate you to push through your self-learning journey.
Similarly, try to find ways to be genuinely interested in what you are learning.
Find Ways to Make it Entertaining.
There are many ways to do this, including gamification, friendly competitions, and changing your learning strategy.
Choose the path of least resistance. Meaning if you learn by watching, find Youtube videos or documentaries, or if you learn best by doing, get out there and do it.
Keep in mind that every improvement you achieve in life — having a successful relationship, career, etc. — will come through learning. If you refuse to choose a profession you’re interested in, you won’t make progress, no matter how much you want to learn.
If you refuse to be interested in learning how to socialize, communicate effectively, or empathize, you won’t build a happy and loving relationship. If you’re not interested in keeping up-to-date with new trends and technologies in your industry, you won’t have a successful career.
Naturally, the more things that you learn, the more things you’ll be able to enjoy.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In traditional learning environments, there is always a structure that is followed. We are taught step by step and in sequential orders.
This is with good reason, as it helps us stack our knowledge and efficiently learn a topic.
It’s great to follow a similar strategy with self-learning. You are free to organize it as you wish, but you should create a plan that you aim to pursue.
Keep in mind, this plan can be adjusted and changed in any way you see fit to accommodate your learning style. Nothing is set in stone.
Still, it is great to organize a plan for you to follow.
Get a good birds-eye overview of all you wish to learn and create a plan for what you want to tackle and how.
Make sure to create work goals for yourself that will fit in with the rest of your commitments and your daily life. In this way, you’re setting yourself up to succeed. Whether it’s through reading a few chapters every night, practicing for a few hours, or adjusting a hectic schedule to make room for new things, every little bit will help.
There are many ways to learn, so it’s essential to find a studying technique that will work for you specifically. Reading aloud is very helpful for some, while others prefer to take handwritten notes instead of typing. Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses, so look for what works best for you and stay with it.
Focus is another crucial aspect of your self-learning journey. However, you need to know what to focus on, so ask yourself questions such as “What brings the most value?” or “What gives the most returns?” Academic experts believe that one of the common mistakes committed when learning is focusing on grades or achievements rather than learning a new skill.
While it may be easy to get caught up with grades, the purpose of learning something new is to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge in a particular interest.
This will reduce the pressure that surrounds your studies and the stress that distracts you from making the most out of your experience.
One of the best and easiest strategies in self-learning is the 80/20 rule, which is also referred to as the Pareto Principle.
It basically states that 80% of your results can be attributed to 20% of your input. This article dives into this topic deeper and shows how focusing on what truly moves the needle can improve your self-learning tremendously.
Build a Habit & Create a Good Learning Environment
If you have a particular topic or subject you want to learn, you need to make a habit of learning it.
Whenever I try to learn something new, I aim to consistently practice or get involved with it. It’s typically more effective to do something consistently for a short amount of time than doing something once a year for a whole day.
The next thing you need to pay attention to is creating a suitable learning environment.
This can be different for everyone. Some of us need a tidy desk with classical music playing in the background, while others prefer to head to a bustling cafe in the city.
Now in the digital age, many of us see phones as a distraction.
It doesn’t have to be. Some people will turn to social media for inspiration, such as filling their newsfeed with mouth-watering food videos because they’re a foodie.
Rather than seeing social media as an addictive hobby, you can turn it into an advantage for self-learning.
Another way to build a good environment is to surround yourself with people who share the same hobbies and interests as you do. Not only will they encourage you on your learning journey, but they may also share interesting things about it.
This is one of the easiest and best ways to learn while also getting a chance to socialize with others.
One way I drive myself to continue learning — and how you can cultivate it for yourself — is through immersion.
By making that specific topic a part of your lifestyle, you can learn more about it. Here are just a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Follow people on social media who are interested in the topic you’re interested in.
- Listen to various podcasts about that topic.
- Join clubs about that particular topic.
- Take courses online or offline to help you study and learn about that topic.
- Watch documentaries that specialize in that topic.
The most meaningful rule with learning is to never stop.
Did you know that learning is actually good for the brain? It’s a muscle that needs to be worked out, and self-learning helps tremendously with this.
I know for a fact that I learned most through my mistakes and failures. It’s important not to get discouraged by mistakes but to use them as a tool.
Out of all the tips mentioned throughout this article, this one is the most important. The best way to learn something is by doing and making mistakes.
It sounds and feels so counterproductive, but by failing, you are actually doing yourself a favor.
Don’t stop — keep going and remind yourself of your goals and your why.
Nothing is impossible if you keep at it.