This fall I embarked on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I moved to Sarmenstorf, Switzerland. My goal is to learn Swiss culture and become fluent (or at least conversational) in the German language. I have quickly accepted that to live in a foreign country, I must enjoy making mistakes. One group of our population seems to already know mistakes and learning go together: kids.
Children run full force at new skills without fear. Adults tend to be more cautious. We often claim children are naturally better at learning because their brains are malleable, but perhaps there is more to it. Perhaps, it’s how children learn. Here’s how you can learn like a kid …
When it comes to talents that include a public audience (second languages, marathon running, performing live music, etc.) it’s easy for many people to feel deterred. When you speak a second language you’re bound to make a TON of mistakes. It’s easy to feel embarrassed. If you’re new to running, you may turn red if you hold back your more conditioned friends. Coming in late on your song’s intro is less than ideal. But all of these mistakes are okay! Don’t feel embarrassed — growing pains are necessary. Children are much better at embracing their mistakes. Kids will unapologetically bang full force on a drum set while singing off-key. Accepting failure as a part of learning makes mistakes okay, even great.
Kids ask a lot of questions. Recognizing when someone knows more than you then acting on that opportunity is a great way to learn. In fact, asking questions may make you appear more competent. According to researchers at Harvard Business School and the Wharton School, people who ask for advice typically feel more confident in their final answers and appear more competent to their peers. Asking questions also improves a person’s chance of being well liked. The researchers went on to explain that people often feel flattered when their opinion is asked for, increasing the question seeker’s popularity.
Knowing how to laugh is generally a great trait to have in life, but it’s equally important in learning. Children are often effortlessly studying social and cognitive skills through play. Play is not only for kids; it’s essential for adults to relax, especially when having a new experience. Play is known to promote brain function, relieve stress, deter depression and increase your ability to retain new information. Removing the pressure of excelling at a new skill or hobby makes it much for fun. Cultivating a positive attitude is vital when learning because it affects our motivation. If a person is enjoying what they’re learning they are more inclined to stick with it.
Kids are incredible learners who can teach us how to be better students. When we remove our inhabitation, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, it fosters a greater learning environment for growth.
Moving to Switzerland has quickly taught me to welcome failure. Adopting an open, lighthearted, childlike mentality has made this move much easier.
How do you learn best? Do you learn like a kid or do you have another approach? —Alex