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The Importance of Habits in Learning

This article was written by Chloe Scott.

They say that the only difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do. While it would be nice to believe that we can devote time and energy to our goals simply by deciding to do so, this New York Times article dispels the notion that sheer willpower is all you would need to sustain good habits.

Our previous post entitled ‘Learning is a Lifelong Process’ discusses the necessity of learning in a fast-paced world where increasingly accessible technology requires you to keep moving forward. When unforeseen game-changing circumstances can hit you at any time, it’s important to avoid stagnancy by building skills and accumulating knowledge that will be useful when you need it.

Fostering good habits that will benefit your learning endeavours takes time. Here are some good reasons to start now.

Good habits make learning enjoyable

It doesn’t matter what your motivations are for setting learning goals. It’s always best to work when you’re enjoying yourself. In the award-winning book ‘The Power of Habit’, Charles Duhigg discusses the importance of agency, stating that having control over our choices allows us to sustain our willpower. Feeling like you’re forced to do something makes you lose interest and makes things feel tedious. But when learning becomes a habit, it transfers agency back into your hands and makes learning an enjoyable choice.

Habits facilitate sustained learning

Slumps are unavoidable. When you fail to keep your momentum up and reinforce the skills and knowledge you’ve absorbed, you have to keep redoing your progress. Ultimately, small and achievable targets are more reliable for reaching your goals than acting only on bursts of energy. Moreover, sustained habits keep you moving forward even when your energy runs low. You make gradual but consistent progress, and avoid creating mental barriers that arise when you force yourself to make up for lost time.

Consistent habits can increase efficiency

Learning requires a lot of discipline, but having to keep on pushing yourself to work each time inspiration strikes can be draining in the long run. When it keeps costing time and effort, consistency can be hard to achieve. In the book Making Habits, Breaking Habits, author Jeremy Dean talks about how automated habits eliminate the need to make decisions.

When you repeat an action until it becomes automatic, you avoid the stress of having to actively think about what to do. Instead, your mind is at rest. This not only increases efficiency by saving you the time and energy needed to find motivation, but also helps you avoid anxiety about wasted time.

Habits help you understand how you learn best

As you discover more about what habits help you learn best, you not only progress in your current pursuits but train yourself to be more adaptable to new and unfamiliar situations when they come in the future. Building good habits allows you to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, and teaches you how to best address them. It teaches you how to utilise your resources and helps you recognise the most efficient way to make progress in unexpected situations when they come.

When what’s new today can be obsolete tomorrow, it’s important to build habits that will facilitate continuous growth. Change is inevitable, but it can often be good and open you up to new opportunities. By cultivating enduring habits, we meet these challenges head-on.

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