Have you ever thought, or said aloud, “Well, I thought I knew that, but obviously I don’t”, or something similar in content? Perhaps you have inadvertently skipped, avoided, or simply never took one of the four steps in the Learning Process. However you come to know what you know, objectively, or subjectively, or both at the same time, these four steps are essential to the process of learning whatever it is you need to learn. When we skip, avoid, or don’t take one of them, we do not complete the circuit for fully understanding what we are learning. Don’t let anyone kid you, no one knows it all, and we continue to learn until we stop breathing.
Today, I am going to discuss those four essential steps in the process, but also attempt to show you how each one is enhanced by and more quickly accomplished with a regular (daily?) writing habit.
1. We don’t know what we don’t know. That seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Ah, but being the often stubborn creatures we can be, we often fail to acknowledge or recognize that reality. Some of us (maybe all) actually resist learning some of the things we really need to know. That can range from “the elephant that resides in the living room”, called denial, to some minor detail that would really help smooth out our lives a bit, but can take time and energy we simply don’t want to invest.
That’s where regular sessions with pen and paper can be really important. We do have patterns of behavior and those become apparent when we are writing regularly. We consciously, or otherwise, will make note of those small avoided, or misstepped omissions, simply because they will continue to occur until we learn to do otherwise. Keeping a journal actually forces us back into ourselves and eventually we will come to know these issues and topics far better than we thought possible.
2. We find out what we didn’t know. This may come as a quiet surprise, a shock of reality, or anything in between, and we suddenly become aware of those words I quoted above. We become aware of a new or different perspective. It’s much like that proverbial light bulb that winks on and off without anyone seeming to flick the switch. Sometimes, it’s so obvious that those around us can see it happen, other times, it seems to slip unobtrusively from out of nowhere and quietly settles in for the duration. And again, it can be one or the other, both, or something in between, but we become aware that we know something we didn’t know before.
Again, our habit of writing can be an essential element of this step. In putting down our thoughts, we actually invite such experiences because we are seeking to understand and our minds will show us what we don’t know, as often as what we do. Personally, I much prefer those little shocks to come on a more private landscape than out in public. I also thoroughly enjoy learning, with the ability to fill in the gaps at my own rate of speed. Writing allows me to explore, ask questions, find answers, without the interference of other opinions, ideas, and perspectives muddling up the adventure. Oh, they often are there, but I don’t have to listen, can choose to shut them off, or use them for further exploration, all at my own choosing, and without offending anyone.
3. We practice knowing what we didn’t know. This is the toughest of the steps in the process. It means work, even discipline. Just because we hear something one time doesn’t mean we know it or even understand it. It simply means we have come in contact with it one time. A long time ago, I read somewhere that it takes upwards of three hundred contacts for the individual to reach understanding, knowing that allows him/her to use the knowledge as a given part of his/her life experience. That means we learn in degrees, increments, layers, and levels. Seems like an awful lot of work to learn that if one reaches out with ones hand and flicks the switch, the light really will go on, most, if not all of the time. We all have a tendency to want to skip step three and march straight to step four. But, if we do that we will never reach step four.
As I have mentioned before, when we write we make note of the things, people, and the world around us. We even make note of the things we are learning. That impacts with memory and helps a great deal with the step 3 issue of repetitive contact. Simply put, the more we write, the more we learn, and do it far more quickly than if we didn’t. Step three may be one of the biggest advantages in journaling.
4. We know and act instinctively on what we have come to know. This is the gravy train of the four steps. We have learned and understand what we needed to learn and are free to go back to step one and start all over again. At any given point in time, we are engaged in all of these steps concerning many different levels of understanding about a diverse number of subjects, issues, and topics. The process is continuous and constant remember, until we stop breathing.
And again, writing can be an essential tool in maintaining and promoting further learning and understanding. In our journals we can celebrate both big and little bits of understanding, inspect and explore where we are at on the learning curve of any issue. We could even stop, or slow down the process if we choose. On paper, with pen, or at keyboard, we can do anything.