Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Stages of Learning

Whenever I learn something new, when I acquire a skill, it seems that I always go through roughly the same stages of learning:

1. Dancing around the Fire

Slowly, slowly, with lots of skepticism and second thoughts, I close in on the subject in question. I have doubts and I don't really "want to believe". Like a predator, I slowly close in on my prey, always on attention for any sign of danger.

When my doubts are qualmed and my hunger for skepticism is satisfied, this leads on to the second stage,

2. Enthusiasm

I totally dive into it. I talk the lingo and meet the folks. I suck it all in. I want this to happen, I want to believe, I'm getting through the darkness to find the light!

Invariably, at some stage, this degrades into

3. Dogmatism

I know all the rules, I know right from wrong, and I'll be damned if I let anyone or anything spoil my sincere belief. This is the truth and nothing but the truth, and anything besides that is either wrong or completely irrelevant.

It's tiresome and it's exhausting, and nothing really new happens at this point, so I become disillusioned and delve into the fourth stage:

4. Hibernation

I want nothing to do with this! It doesn't work for me, it's stupid and trite, and I need new, fresh air.

5. Phoenix

And then, after a while, quite miraculously, the thing raises from the ashes. That's when the real magic happens, and I finally integrate whatever it was that I wanted to learn, into my system. That's the stage of actual, lasting changes that lead to a more satisfied and satisfying life.

It's happened to me with a wide variety of subjects, from IT to meditation, so I think I know what I'm talking about here.

I certainly don't believe that you go through the same stages. It would be weird if a thing like that wasn't subjective to a large degree.

But I do think that everybody HAS a method of learning, and that it can be generalized into stages. And if you know what those stages are in your life, it can make a lot of things easier, because you can recognize where you currently stand, and know that it's not going to last forever.

What I find weird, though, is that my "plan" seems to contain all the elements of the classical Hero's Quest: There's the call to the quest, there's initial reluctance, there's going in to reap the rewards, death and resurrection. So there may be general outlines to learning, after all, and they may have been laid down in ye olde stories, again and again, for people to learn.

It's funny how those things work.

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