A Guide to Overcome the Horrors of Self-Learning

No one can do the learning for you — Lailah Gifty Akita

he idea of self-learning is too perfect to be true. But we got to admit! We have all been there…. Staring bewilderingly at the immense sea of information with uncertainty, doubt, and hesitance. All at once! And worse, if you got ADHD.

A novice self-learner struggles to make effective learning choices as they don’t know much about the subject and get distracted from every new information that catches attention. It’s like having a map with no compass.

Even though the abundance of online resources, courses, and communities has reduced this problem to some extent. It’s still challenging for even the brightest students.

Let’s shortlist some of the most common struggles we all have encountered as novice self-learners:

Lack of Feedback:

As a beginner, you don’t know what you don’t know. The substantial time and energy-draining problem I have always faced as a self-learner is the absence of quick answers to mere problems.

  • You cant quickly message or mail someone due to the fear of burdening them/yourself with supposedly a stupid question. No matter how logical it may sound as per the direction you are looking at.
  • Whereas trying to figure it out will either take hours or a minute, you don’t know. And when you do begin the google search journey, it will take me off the tangent: blossoming doubts if what I have assumed is correct or does this holds valid? resulting in an infinite spiral of frustration/doubts and loosing context.
  • Lastly, leaving as it is and moving forward leaves a gap in understanding and requires massive motivation to get back to solving the problem.

Self Doubt:

Apart from the absence of feedback, another triggering element of doubt is the thought of not doing the right thing. Self-learning does not provide a scale to measure how well or poorly you are doing against the rest of the people. And if you are not wasting your time aimlessly.

Procrastination:

Discipline is the key to progress in this journey. In an era of cellphones and networking apps, you don’t get a hook off how and where time flies.

Mode of Study:

No one person has a similar style of study. Understanding and figuring that out is another challenge. The worst thing a beginner can do to him/herself is trying what works for others. For me, its never have been a single style or mode of learning, as it varies based on what I am learning.

Setting Unrealistic Goals:

The over and under-estimation of our learning capabilities is another struggle. Setting unrealistic goals and not being able to achieve them is another demotivating factor. On the contrary, underestimating and not allowing yourself to get out of the box is another tragedy.

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For a fact, every self-starter faces these challenges, and tackling them requires a lot of discipline and motivation.

But before moving onwards with the ways to deal with these issues, every learner needs to realize why self-learning is critical in the 21st Century and how it’s revolutionary for a seeking mind.

  • The abundance of online resources has paved the way for aspirants to stay relevant with the ever-changing world of technology and innovation.
  • It defies the notion of determining intelligence with good grades.
  • It places great emphasis on learning as a process, a way of thinking, content internalization rather than an outcome.
  • It develops real-life skills of self-assessment, self-commitment, and management.
  • Enhances the ability to develop new skills.
  • Most importantly, it adds meaning and purpose to the learning process.

There is no greater education than one that is self-driven- Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Let’s discuss ways to improve our thought process as a self-learner and how to get better at learning and maintaining consistency.

Power of Thought

Before getting on the road to learn anything, it’s important to internalize that there will be moments of dread and collapse. In other words, you will feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and anxious because of gaps in knowledge or lack of resources to solve a particular problem. That happens, and it is normal.

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But how we think and perceive ourselves is definitely going to influence the learning curve. Mostly the frustration we have is due to internal factors, and how we react to it depicts our subconscious thought process. It’s a temporary emotional reaction to powerlessness.

Recognize where this frustration is coming from and work to build high tolerance through training and consistency. In a learning process, it develops because of gaps in our knowledge or lack of resources to solve a particular problem.

Do not let the overwhelming situation turn into negative thoughts, worry, fear, and self-fulfilling prophecies.

  • Redefine failure.
  • Improve the way you think, perceive and comprehend the learning process.
  • Recall your purpose of being on this path in the first place.

Every thought we have is an interpretation of a perceptual experience that is radically untrue — Deepak Chopra.

Maintain Discipline

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Begin with a positive note, by understanding what works best for you? Understand when you study best by figuring out:

  • Are you early birdy or a late owl? What time of day suits you the best for studying?
  • Do you work best in a confined place or an open place?
  • Do you like short study sessions or long?
  • What helps you to be super productive?
  • What is your knowledge or skill level?

Once you know how you work and your studying preferences, it will be easy for you to build a plan and stick to it.

Most importantly, learn to make a backup plan. If things don’t go out as you have planned, which happens if you are around family. Learn how to tackle the situation by making a backup plan before problems take over. Having a backup plan definitely prevents breaking the studying tempo.

Set a Path

The sheer volume of information available over the internet overwhelms every beginner, but it is also necessary to understand that you do not need to understand everything. You can either be a jack of all or master of none. Or you can follow one road and become an expert in it.

Surround yourself with people who share similar ambitions, who have been through this path, or are on it. Engage with the online learning-focused community to join, seek help, and improve learning capabilities.

Active learning is an ideal way to add more to our experience. Discuss your findings and listen to your peers for different views and information. Compare what you have learned from them, with your own knowledge, for filling the gaps and a better understanding.

“Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.”
Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Learn to Learn

Since learning is a process, many people haven’t yet learned how to learn.

Learning requires us to find, choose, adapt, and learn what we need.

Accept your learning strengths and weaknesses and work around them to develop a research methodology and your learning process. Then figure out how to use this to improve your knowledge base. However, before that, we better first learn and practice how to do it.

Most importantly, do not fall into the trap of limitations; accepting your weaknesses is good, however, learn to distinguish them from excuses.

Motivation

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Motivation crumbles when we are not able to achieve our desire set of goals or maintain our desired form of discipline. Follow these suggestions, and they will work like magic:

  • Learn to set realistic-achievable goals and divide them into small goals to maintain a systematic learning process.
  • Recognize what you have learned so far, recognize even the smallest of all achievements. Know your goals and look back to acknowledge how far you have come. Maintain a list of achievements to remain motivated and keep levels of dopamine high.
  • Set short-term rewards after each study session. Or treat yourself well after achieving a tough goal.

“The cause to achieve or learn something must be greater than ourselves and higher than any interim goal. So even when you don’t end up at your desired spot, you will have the motivation to dream again, set new goals, and grow. Growth isn’t in learning; it’s in unlearning.”

Self-Learning is difficult, and at times it’s also draining and lonely. But loving what you do turns the process bearable.

“Learning is a reiterating process, focus on the bigger picture and do not forget to ask why”.

Thank you for reading!

I hope you find my advice useful. Happy Learning!