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Beginner’s Mind

This month I sprang for a Coursera Plus subscription and have decided to earn the certificates in areas that I have been dabbling in over the past year, including project management and digital marketing. Data analytics, building green cities, design thinking, and fundraising, are also on my list of things to learn. I am already more than a third of the way through a certificate in learning. I’m often in situations where I’m mentoring or trying to teach someone something and understanding how people learn and why they learn can help avoid fruitless tactics. A lot of what we do in the name of teaching and learning isn’t effective.

I think Coursera Plus is worth it, especially if you can get it on sale. The testing that is often locked when you audit courses is what helps you cement the knowledge in your brain.

It’s especially hard to learn new things if you are someone with deep expertise in an area or two. It feels difficult to pivot from the relative comfort of familiar knowledge to the land of the beginner. But it’s so good for your brain and I would argue your heart. The ability to change directions and begin again can save you.

Go all in with language study
It’s particularly hard learning another language as an adult. Ask me about my French studies! Wow, it’s just been an ongoing lesson in humility. There’s a good reason for this. As kids, we use a different part of our brain to acquire language. Learning a language as an adult requires a different type of learning. It’s not that it can’t be done, but it does require more effort and more intention. So for all of you who are studying language, I salute you! It’s hard work. But I surprise myself when I am doing Duolingo lessons and realize that I effortlessly translated whatever phrase I’m presented with without laboring over each word. When I can laugh out loud because I know what they’re saying, I feel like I am making a little progress. It’s not linear, but I can see it.

Prepping your nervous system for change
I love setting learning goals for the new year and I’m all in on prepping your nervous system so was excited when this link landed in my inbox from the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_prepare_your_nervous_system_for_new_goals

I hear this a lot from people who want to embrace change, but just find that they can’t. They might know intellectually that change is not a bad thing and that could even be a good thing, but they resist with their bodies. There are good reasons why we resist! We have a whole system designed to keep us safe, and that system doesn’t like to change because it can’t predict our safety in the face of the unknown.

So as you set goals, recognize and honor your nervous system. As the article explains, “you can create cues of safety” for your autonomic nervous system. Have a friendly conversation with yourself and be gentle with your factory settings.

Also, it’s a leap year! What a great time to make a leap.

What are your learning goals this year? I would love to hear about them and cheer you on! And if you need an accountability check-in or a cheerleader, I’m your girl.