“The effort of learning. It's the same when you approach any new skill or technique, from a dance step to driving a car. The effort of learning stops you, at first, from doing it well.”
- Antony Sher, Year of the King: An Actor's Diary and Sketchbook
Do you ever hit a wall with your studying? You might truly want to feel motivated and inspired to do your best work, but something is holding you back. Something hard to describe. We all face these hurdles somewhere along the learning journey. Here are a few common potholes where learners tend to stumble…
1. Before you start
Sometimes it hits before you start studying. This hurdle usually takes the form of self-doubt. Concerns that you won’t have the time, talent, or stamina to be top-of-the-class. Or, you keep telling yourself, you’ll start next month… term… year. Whether you’re a perfectionist or procrastinator, you can survive this bump by setting yourself realistic goals. You don’t need to be top-of-the-class. Everyone is on a different path, you only need to be better than you were yesterday.
2. At the beginning
Gaining momentum is challenging. Learning can be uncomfortable, because you are trying to rewire your brain, and brains don’t enjoy this at the start. But, if you embrace the initial discomfort, you reap the rewards of all those ‘eureka’ moments later. To help yourself past this stage, identify the kind of learning your brain enjoys and seek out learning resources to suit you. Our courses are full of inspiring, funny, and innovative resources to engage every variety of brain!
3. Failing flurries
Unsurprisingly, people don’t tend to enjoy failure. Your first failing grade can be disheartening, but two or three in a row is enough to make anyone want to give up. This is a common scenario that derails even the most confident learners. If this happens, just pause for a moment. Find what has caught you off-balance. Reach out. Whether it is ill-health, misinformation, or misunderstanding, there is always a solution. Explore the options with your tutor, your study group, your community coordinator, your friends/family, and/or your employer. All these support systems are here to help you through the tough times, and we all want to see you succeed!
4. Post-holiday blues
Statistically you are more likely to drop out after a well-deserved break from the books. This is like the discomfort you felt at the start of the course. Your brain doesn’t, initially, enjoy learning or changing, and while having a holiday gives your brain a well-deserved break its stamina won’t be the same as when you last studied. It’s just like returning to exercise after a dodging the gym for a few weeks. Plan for this hurdle. Start easy when you return to the books. Avoid procrastination, but keep your targets gentle while you regain momentum. Take plenty of breaks and remember to reward yourself.
5. Pre-assessment nerves*
The anticipation of exams can shake the most stoic of learners. Remember not to push yourself so hard that you crumble under the pressure, but not so soft that the grip of procrastination takes hold. Make a realistic revision schedule. This final test of your abilities can seem like a daunting challenge, but making a realistic revision schedule can help you to minimise stress.
When faced with any of these challenges, the fear of failure can weigh heavy. Especially after investing significant time and effort. It is important to stay relaxed and maintain perspective. I find it helpful to remember that, win or lose, the skills and knowledge acquired will never leave you. It might be hard to retrieve, but like muscle memory and exercise, any form of learning is good weight-training. Celebrate wins, learn from fails, and keep moving forward.
Good luck with your studies!
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*Nerves are distinct from anxiety. Mental wellbeing is essential for successful learning. If you experience extreme anxiety, seek help from your doctor or a trained therapist.