I was asked recently how I would address this topic, and I was caught off guard…
Well, why would you enjoy any kind of torture… you’d have to be mad!? Ok, I admit in some of my geekier moments, I have indeed enjoyed studying. But to actually set out with the express purpose of enjoyment… well, hey, I prefer chocolate. 😛
But, being up for a challenge – especially one involving a word-count 😛 – I thought I’d divulge my 3pence worth…
So… You will need a healthy base of curiosity
When you stand back and look, Curiosity stands out squealing “Me, me, look at me!!” I’d say it is pretty much the fundamental pre-requisite to the most productive learning.
Yet it is so easy to loose sight of this. So much studying is originally motivated by less inspiring concerns: “Got to pass the exam”; “Need to know it for my new work-assignment”; “Want a flashier-looking CV”.
The traditional analogy here seems insufficient for me: if you think of learning like a sponge, then all you got to do is sit there being cork dry, and you’re ready.
I prefer to think of learning as tucking into a delicious meal. Yes, you may not have to prepare the ingredients or concoction of the meal yourself, but you’re not going to enjoy it fully if you don’t come with a good appetite.
Curiosity is what makes you ready to learn: an inquisitive mind is armed with questions, ready to accept, interpret, correlate and judge the values and worth of what is presented. Looking not just for answers, but answers that make sense, are complete and are internally consistent.
Gaining answers to such pressing questions becomes immensely satisfying… fun, even 🙂
Then… a wave or two of Humililty
Much of learning involves realising exactly how much we don’t know, as opposed to what we do.
This can be at times a painful and frustrating process if we’re not prepared to tie up our pride to a stake outside. However, if we start off being humble right from the beginning, we are more open and receptive to the wide scope of what we could potentially learn. The whole process begins to flow smoother and more musically when we do.¹
While I can’t fully measure or define or explain it, nevertheless I consider humility to be fundamental to effective learning… and surely we enjoy learning more when it is effective? As Einstein once said:
“Not everything that counts can be measured. Not everything that can be measured counts.”
And finally… a fizzy splash of creativity
Learning by its very nature is not just a transient short activity. There are things that seem to “click” almost instantly, yet even in this case, it is the result of thorough groundwork that is only now paying off.
Normally, there is a large time-commitment. Intense concentration is required, along with the motivation to be engaged with the subject area at the appropriate opportunities. But there is the rest of life going on to one side too: learning will of necessity be interrupted, or be deliberately put to one side as occasion arises.
All this sounds like a bit of a slog. But to refresh our minds about where we started, it is possible to enjoy studying, despite the many times when we do not. So what accounts for the difference of experience?
(Yes, I’ll get to Creativity in a minute… I haven’t forgotten!)
Since studying can be enjoyed without any deliberate decision to do so, there is another factor at work here: being “in the flow” – the same type of intense experience athletes or musicians would describe. So, why don’t we just go with this as a solution: just get in the flow and get on with it? Well, I’ve happily bought that line until today, but now I see two reasons to improve on it.
1. It is not always easy to get in the flow about anything at any time (in fact, I would say it was a clear exception rather than the rule).
2. Being in the flow has serious clashes with interruptions: it only lasts as long as one occasion of study; coming back later and you have to start from scratch, yet maintaining long study periods is not always practical or appropriate.
So, yes, Creativity…
Creativity is invaluable to keep the flame burning. Creativity tells you to sit in your other favourite chair next time. Creativity gives you flexibility of scheduling and environment, that while you have to start making tea in 5mins time, it is possible to file away your most juicy question for later calm reflection. Creativity reminds you to buy fresh fruit juice to enhance your physical alertness while studying.
And creativity can be as fun as you like 😀 Suggestions welcome, of course!
¹I will admit an explanation of “how” or “why” eludes me, though I’ll give it some attempt: It is difficult in teaching to have the orderliness to teach first the concrete, then the abstract (in all its various levels), yet it appears that humility is what enables the learner to more easily intuatively grasp the higher rungs on this ladder of understanding.