An intention to learn includes embracing the need to learn and developing a strong desire to learn continuously, almost like a reflective, automatic behavior. This requires two fundamental approaches: developing an open mindset and being curious.
A popular study by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck on mindsets suggests that people hold one of two sets of beliefs about their own abilities: They adopt either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is the belief that personality characteristics, talents, and abilities are finite or fixed resources; they can’t be altered, changed, or improved. You simply are the way you are. People with this mindset tend to take a polar view of themselves—they consider themselves either intelligent or average, talented, or untalented, a success or a failure. A fixed mindset stunts learning because it eliminates permission not to know something, to fail, or to struggle. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be.
In contrast, a growth mindset suggests that you can grow, expand, evolve, and change. Intelligence and capability are not fixed points but instead traits you can cultivate. A growth mindset releases you from the expectation of being perfect. Failures and mistakes are not indicative of the limits of your intellect but rather tools that inform how you develop. Cultivating a growth mindset can begin with shifting your inner dialogue from beliefs about your ability (a fixed mindset) to beliefs about your opportunities and needs (a growth mindset) — for example, from “I am terrible at being disciplined and focused” to “I need to put in more effort and practice to become focused.” Similarly, “I’m not good enough to be a manager” might become “I need some additional experience before I can manage others.” Simple restatements have a dramatic impact on what you believe about your own abilities.
How can I develop my intention to learn?
Curiosity, the catalyst of intentional learning, can be cultivated, even in those who don’t consider themselves naturally curious. Think of curiosity as the start button of your learning engine.
Curiosity is inquisitiveness, a need to know more. It is an openness to idea, and an ability to make connections between dissimilar concepts. Research tells us that curiosity matters for three primary reasons. First, inspiration is strongly correlated with an intrinsic desire to learn. Curiosity sparks inspiration.
You learn more and more frequently because you are curious. Second, curiosity marks the beginning of a virtuous cycle that feeds your ability as a self-directed learner. Finally, research suggests that curiosity does not diminish with age, so it can serve you at any point in your career. Although your learning methods will change over time, curiosity will keep the spark of motivation alive.
Theories on learning offer different perspectives on how individuals receive, process, and retain knowledge during learning. Cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences, as well as prior experience, all play a part in determining how understanding is acquired or changed, and knowledge and skills retained.
Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences. Some learning is immediate, caused by a single event (e.g., being bitten by a dog), but more often, skills and knowledge accumulate from repeated experiences. The changes induced by learning often last a lifetime.
Human learning starts at birth and continues until death via ongoing interactions between people and their environment.
The nature and processes involved in learning are studied in many fields, including educational psychology, neuropsychology, experimental psychology, pedagogy, and andragogy. Research in such fields has led to the identification of various sorts of learning. For example, learning may occur through classical conditioning, operant conditioning, or habituation. Complex activities such as play also can engender learning, and learning may occur consciously or unconsciously.
As interesting as it is to explore how learning occurs, the most important thing to understand is how open are we to learning.