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Learning Inertia

Imagine how much we would know if we were always learning.  Learning should be something we are constantly doing – and we, with a few small changes here and there, can start on that path right now.

Our challenge is to make learning a bigger portion of our lives…  The wasted and lazy times are potholes in the road and if we don’t avoid them, the potholes can grow big enough to fall into completely.  We can’t get to our goals if we don’t make progress on the road.  Learning feels harder, and more like work, when you come from a comfortable vegetable state.  But – when the learning is continuous, it builds on itself and helps you to keep going, learning more and more, without as much effort.  Learning inertia!

Without getting all technical in describing Newton’s Laws of Motion, we can describe inertia as the tendency for an object to stay like it is (either in motion or not in motion).  Without any external forces acting on the object, inertia is maintained.  Applying this to laziness and learning, when we are doing one or the other we have the tendency to want to continue doing that same thing.

We’ve all felt laziness keep us front of a TV – there seems to be a mystical force pulling into our sofa.  We have also felt the excitement of doing something we enjoy! (…and sometimes that exciting thing is sitting in front of the TV… there can be room for that from time to time).  The focus here is to help us break out of “laziness inertia”, like we feel when we have been in front of the TV too long.  Can we change from being pulled in by the seemingly excessive gravity under our couch to a “learning inertia” where we continuously desire to seek and find knowledge?

Going from the couch-state to learning can result in learning feeling like work. Learning can take some effort, and being lazy is easy.  Inertia would say that being lazy makes you want to stay lazy.  The body and mind relax and don’t want to make any effort – It is best to avoid that pattern as much as possible and switch it around. The amount of effort to continue learning is much smaller than the amount of energy needed to learn when you first must overcome the laziness inertia – Think of it like a car.  Going from 0 to 60 takes a lot of RPM, the engine has to burn more fuel and work hard.  Once at 60, the engine can maintain that speed without as much effort. The positive inertia you feel when you are actively learning, and enjoying it, reduces the temptation to slide into the laziness – it keeps laziness inertia away.

Like exercise, learning does take energy to make progress.  To gain, you must make effort.  If you stop putting forth effort, your gains will be lost and it will feel harder to get going again.  To keep the progress and the gains, let them build on themselves, and make ‘making an effort’ the new normal.  Determination and grit can make all the difference.  Let laziness be the exception and reach the point where it is hard for you to be doing nothing.  With this learning inertia, you will soon see how much you can accomplish as you consistently work at it.  The key here is to avoid switching back and forth between learning and lazy, and eliminate that extra effort of overcoming the laziness inertia.  Using the car example again – Don’t let off the gas, or you’ll slow down.  Build up to 60, stay there, and make it easier to get to 65, then 70, 75, and more!

Oh sure – the words are easy to say, but making the change sounds hard.  The ‘sounding hard’ comes from inertia in the wrong direction, and we can overcome it with small changes done consistently and with patience.  For example, some extra reading one night likely won’t have any great effect on your life, but if you begin to make it a habit and read extra each night and then you, in turn, build on that change, you are then on your way to making a huge impact.  You are building learning inertia.

Here are some thoughts and ideas you might use to build learning inertia – remember, the changes don’t have to be drastic, but they do need to be consistent:

  • Add in out-of-the-ordinary activities to give variety to life and, at the same time, create lasting memories of great learning experiences.
  • Have an attitude that learning is something you enjoy – enough to keep doing it.
  • Learn new and exciting concepts, dive into a new subject, practice what you already know.
  • Use your knowledge in a new way or teach someone what you learned.
  • Don’t take too much time off – coming home from school or work should be a transition to a new learning project, not a time to stop.
  • Continue learning even when relaxing, add education and learning to your relaxation activities.
  • It doesn’t need to be hard, don’t make it hard.  Make it fun.
  • Visit a museum or go for a ride and stop at the historical site you drive by every day.
  • Learn a new skill, build something or start a project in your home.
  • Research a new topic and share it with someone in your family.
  • Pick a moment in history and learn why it happened.
  • Find a new recipe, make it, learn it’s history
  • Create your own math test and give it to someone to take.
  • Go the library, pull a random book off the shelf and start reading from the middle of the book.
  • Go to Wikipedia and click on the Random Article link, find something in the article to read more about.
  • Use the words ‘how to’ in a Google search.
  • Read a classic.
  • Pick a headline from the news and research whether or not something similar has happened in history.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice. Grit, grit, grit.  Work hard, be determined – change the inertia!

People become great all the time through diligence and effort. We can make learning a habit and break through barriers.