When you’re young, your parents probably paid to put you through years of education, hopefully giving you the essential skills you need to make it in the adult world. However, even as independent adults, we still need to learn new things on occasion. Often, you can pay someone to help you understand or master a skill. A mortgage lender can help you navigate the housing market, or a driving instructor can teach you road safety, for example.
But there will be times when your ROI doesn’t quite justify the expense. Teaching yourself a complex concept is a vital skill, as well as a cost-effective and satisfying endeavor—here’s how you can go about it.
Break it down
In general, any complex task can be simplified to make it easier to perform—both physically and mentally. Decluttering your home in a single day will leave you exhausted; spreading it out and tackling one room each day makes the job manageable. Similarly, your path to learning can begin on a smoother curve by deconstructing the challenge.
Have you ever fancied building a personal website? Instead of immediately paying for a domain and hosting while lacking knowledge of how to code or manage the back end, try practicing with a simple, visual editor like Wix. Are you tired of reading YA, but don’t know how to start appreciating the classics of literature? Try slowing down, reading one chapter at a time, and maybe taking down notes on the side or writing a summary of what you’ve understood so far.
Find a progression
When a student learns how to drive, they don’t go out on the road the first time they get behind the wheel. The instructor goes over the different parts of the car, explains their functions, and gives the student a chance to acquire some hands-on knowledge in a controlled setting. Thus, beginners learn to pull out of the driveway, then park, before heading out. Your instructor determines this learning progression.
When you take charge, it’s up to you to find a progression that works. Identify the most basic sub-skills, for instance, and start with those; work your way up and take on more complex challenges. If you’re learning to play basketball, practice your dribble and the necessary motions for passing, catching, and shooting. Later on, you can rehearse plays with teammates, practice defense, and learn what to do without the ball in your hands.
Research for feedback
One of the most valuable aspects of learning from an instructor, and especially in a classroom environment, is feedback. Timely feedback helps us correct mistakes before they become ingrained in our practice. Picking up insights from a teacher or peers who may be ahead of us on the curve will accelerate our learning. When you’re trying to teach yourself something, missing out on this aspect can slow you down—but a quick online search can help remedy that weakness.
Be specific in your search terms; if you’re facing an obstacle to learning, a well-defined query can yield relevant results, informing you how others in a similar situation have worked past this roadblock. Research may not be able to fully replicate the benefits of instructor (or peer) feedback, but in a pinch, it comes close.
Our world can consistently throw us into situations where new knowledge is required. When you can’t call upon a friend or professional to teach you something, knowing that you can rely on yourself to grapple with new concepts will give you the confidence to take on any challenge.