Mindfulness
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Nov 05 2021
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4
 min read

BUILDING CLEAN LEARNING HABITS

Varun

The key is not to give up when the results aren’t noticeable or when the progress feels slow.

BUILDING CLEAN LEARNING HABITS

Habits can make or break a person. In this blog, we shall see why good habits are essential to succeed. 

Before getting started, I’d like to suggest a book by James Clear called “Atomic Habits” that I found insightful. If you’re into reading or looking for ways to improve, you should definitely give it a read.

As you go through your day, you have habits. In a sense, you are building a model of yourself, a representation of who you want to be. You are constantly updating your model. You make decisions, and your model changes. It's constant, almost automatic.

Habits are the small decisions that we make and actions we perform every day. A single, tiny decision. That's the thing about habits. The seed of every habit is a single, small decision.

As that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger.

We’ve all been told since we were kids to “learn good habits”. But I bet most of us have never bothered to understand why we should “learn good habits”. Maybe the people who advised us to do so never really knew why one should practice good habits.

But the context was slightly different back then. “Good habits” then mostly meant practices that were thought would be good for you. While they might have given you good results back then, it might not be the case now. This is simply because your goals change as the years pass. And if you have habits that helped you achieve your old plans, you wouldn’t necessarily accomplish your new goals. So you have to first define your goals and see what habits will help you get there. Nobody knows you better than you, after all

If the habits you pick aren’t thought through and practiced regularly, things can get out of control. And the worst part is we can’t observe the effects caused by these changes as each day passes. But one fine day, when you least expect it, the snowball will come and crush you into pieces.

Habits get etched into our memory. They are things that we start doing without putting too much thinking into them. Habits are a mental shortcut that frees us to do something repeatedly. They allow us to focus, be systematic, and make the right decisions. We tend to overestimate our abilities and underestimate the effects of habits.

Contrary to popular belief, success is often not about one defining moment but rather making minor improvements on a daily basis. Now I know what you’re thinking, doesn’t winning a lottery mean one struck “success”? And it happened because of one defining moment. That moment being the winner purchasing the ticket or the moment when the winner was announced. For some reason, most of us find it interesting when odds are explained with the help of money or if we consider a situation where their life’s at stake (Russian roulette). So here we go.

In the case of lottery winners, we are looking at a tiny sample space, zoom out. Let’s say 10 million people bought lottery tickets. And out of that 10 million people, let’s say ten people win some money. And the rest (i.e., 999,990) lost money. That’s it; their bet didn’t pay off; they go home empty-handed. Do that a couple more times, “hoping” you’d win, and your losses would pile up to a sizable amount.

The odds are stacked against them. But they do take home one lesson though, not to make bets like that again.

And the worst part? These bets are mutually exclusive. Meaning the outcome of a particular event is not dependent on the previous events that have occurred. If you have lost 999,990 times buying a lottery ticket, it doesn’t mean you will win the following ten times. 

Now, coming to “ Contrary to the popular belief, success is often not about one defining moment but rather making small improvements on a daily basis”. I hope we are on the same page regarding the “one defining moment”. On the other hand, let’s see what “making small improvements on a daily basis” might help you with.

It’s safe to say that habits can make or break a person. And it is even more critical to have clean learning habits. Your habits can help you form a strong foundation for your understanding of the world around you, or it could give you an illusion of the same.

What illusion? An illusion of you thinking that you understand how things work.

As James Clear puts it, “Habits are the compound interest of self-­improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them.” Just making minor incremental improvements every day can make all the difference.

Let’s take the case of the light bulb. We all know the famous quote by Thomas Alva Edison - “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Making it a habit to learn from your failures is absolutely essential. Unlike buying a lottery ticket, each failure will take you towards your goals.

There’s this beautiful quote in the book “Atomic habits”, “Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits”. Time becomes your friend when you practice good habits.

Habits are double-edged swords. Bad habits can bring you down just as quickly as good habits can lift you, which is why it's so important to pay attention to the details.

The “Aha moment” comes when you realize that knowledge compounds. Learning one new concept will not turn you into a genius, but a commitment to lifelong learning can. Furthermore, each book you read teaches you something new and allows you to consider old concepts in new ways.

Let’s consider an example when you started learning new concepts in maths. You begin by struggling with a chapter. People who’ve learnt Calculus know this struggle. And as you struggle, you feel frustrated and discouraged. But you stick with it, and after a few weeks, you start to notice that things are getting a little easier. And a few months down the road, you start looking at the chapter very differently. You understand parts of the chapter you didn't understand before.

Breakout moments are usually due to an accumulation of actions that were already done. The outputs of following good habits are not linear, and you could be just another day away from a breakthrough event. The first few days or weeks are frustrating because you are not sure that you are making any progress, and you don’t yet have a sense of how much you have progressed.

On the other hand, it’s frustrating not to make much progress. Maybe you are wasting a lot of energy on things that don’t really matter. The compounding nature of learning is frustrating. It is easy to feel like progress is too slow, and failure is too fast. We expect progress to be linear, but it happens in a nonlinear fashion.

The compounding nature of learning means that keeping up with your learning is hard work, even though it gets easier over time. The more you do it, the easier and fruitful it gets. The key is not to give up when the results aren’t noticeable or when the progress feels slow.

People will call it an overnight success in the quest for self-improvement once you have a breakthrough moment. The outside world only sees the most dramatic event rather than all that preceded it. But you know that it’s the work you did long ago—when it seemed that you weren’t making any progress—that makes the jump today possible. Breakthroughs are cumulative.

Every habit can be broken down into two decisions:

- How am I going to act?

- How am I going to feel?

Whenever you take action, notice how you feel. Permit yourself to break the habit if you think it’s not taking you in the direction of your goals. Once a habit is started, it takes effort and attention to keep it from changing. Habits form deep roots. 

Goals tell you what you want, and they give you a timeline for getting there. Systems tell you what to do, and they tell you how to do it. Goals are the result. Systems are the process. Concentrating and perfecting your process guarantees moving towards your desired results. The key is to obsess over what you are doing to achieve your goals and do them day in and day out. You can carefully pick habits that best suit you and make that your system/process to follow. Why am I asking you to pick them beforehand?

Because you will be following your process every day, it’s essential to know what you will be doing. And when you decide things beforehand, it also saves you a ton of time that otherwise is needed if you have to make decisions on your actions every day.

Success comes from following habits that have been thought through religiously. Define what your goals are and practice habits that put you on a path towards those goals. We might just have the holy grail for you when it comes to planning your goals and tracking the habits that will take you in the right direction. Check out the habit tracker on Zuperly now!