i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success» Independent Learning

Things That Can Get in the Way of Your Learning and Tips for Success

There are plenty of things that can get in the way of our learning and stop us developing in the way we would like. Sometimes, it is a case of nerves, lack of motivation, or emotions that hold us back. Maybe we lack the confidence to truly believe we can learn more and progress or just don’t realise the possibilities we have to go forward in a positive way.

Other problems may arise later, when we have made good progress in our learning. The famous scientist Stephen Hawking commented that the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge. In other words, if we become satisfied with our learning, we might start to think we know all that we need to and lose motivation to go further. Adult learners may find another problem in their learning – they simply don’t like starting from scratch because they have forgotten that you can’t get good at something without those awkward first steps. But they should remember that everyone has to start somewhere.

So far I’ve written about the obstacles to learning well. Here are a few tips to overcome them and find your own path to success.

Have good friends: It’s important not to isolate yourself when you learn. Don’t be like the movie version of the scientist or professor who shuts themselves away in the lab or library for days. It’s better to have some close friends and family who you can share your interests with and who care about what you are doing. They don’t have to be learning the same thing as you at the same time, but having positive people to support you can help keep you happy, motivated and able to solve any problems you encounter.

Do a lot of different things: This is a good way to stay balanced in your life and avoid focusing too much on just one thing. Having different activities can provide change and variety and will stop you getting bored. You will be able to apply the lessons learned in one activity to your approach to another area of learning.

Know that you will progress: It’s really important that you have confidence in your ability to go forward. Whatever area you are working in, if you are patient and persevere you will get better. You might not improve quickly, and your progress might not be regular, but with time you will go a long way. Don’t put pressure on yourself to progress too quickly, or expect to master new challenges right away, and remember to celebrate small successes.

Know what you want: Think about what you want to get out of your learning. Is your learning simply about a high mark in an exam, or a reward you have been promised if you do well? If it is then you might find that your motivation drops or isn’t very consistent. The best motivation comes from a genuine interest and enjoyment of what you are doing, and being able to notice the improvements you have made. You might have heard of being ‘process focused’ – this just means focusing on the activity you are doing and practising often, rather than concentrating on outcomes or results. It is the best way to enjoy learning, to stay motivated, and continue on your journey for a long time.

Stay curious:

My final piece of advice is to stay curious. If you can keep this attitude, you will always be motivated to continue learning. The easiest way to stay curious  is to make sure that you are happy, to relax, and to allow yourself to really enjoy the things you do.