Learning new things engages your prefrontal cortex, which operates via your working (i.e., short-term) memory. Your working memory is used for conscious decision-making and planning, directed at the attainment of your goals.
However, once you automatize a skill, it becomes subconscious; and thus, you free up by 90 percent your working memory, which allows higher-level functioning. For example, you can drive for minutes at a time without even thinking about driving.
In the context of learning and performance, automaticity allows you to apply and deepen your learning in novel and enhanced ways. Developing automaticity is the process of going from doing to being–empowering you to become an expert and innovator.
As Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning, has said, “Just as the yin-yang symbol possesses a kernel of light in the dark, and of dark in the light, creative leaps are grounded in a technical foundation.”
Here’s how it works.
Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality. –Earl Nightingale
The first step toward automaticity is repetitiously learning small sets or bits of information. If you’re learning a new language, it’s repeatedly hammering the same word types and roots. If you’re golfing, it’s practicing the same shot over and over.
However, automaticity goes beyond the initial point of mastery, to what has been called overlearning. To overlearn, you continue practicing and honing long after you know something inside-out.
Becoming grounded and proficient in the left-brained technical rules and skills frees up your right brain to creatively break or manipulate the rules. As the Dali Lama has said, “Learn the rules well so you know how to break them properly.”
2. Find your zone and stay there as long as you can.
“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”―Richard Marcinko
The second step toward automaticity is making the practice or training progressively harder. If you’re at the gym, increase the weight and intensity. If you’re giving a speech, include elements outside your comfort zone.
The goal is making the task increasingly difficult until it’s too hard. Then you drop the difficulty back down slightly to stay near the zone or threshold of your current ability.
3. Add a time constraint.
The third step toward automaticity is making the training more difficult while adding a time restraint. Do the same activity (e.g., writing an article), but give yourself a shortened timeline to do it in. Your focus should be process, not outcome on this. Quality over quantity.
Adding a timeline forces you to work faster while at the same time it requires you to think about the time, which loads up your working memory (think Chopped on Food Network).
4. Load up your working memory with purposeful distractions.
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”–Sun Tzu
The final step toward automaticity is working/training with an increasing memory load. In other words, doing the task with greater levels of distraction. Math teachers leverage this strategy by having students learning an obscure fact and having them recall it immediately after completing a math problem.
Eventually, you can perform the activity in a flowlike state, where the external distractions and pressures no longer influence your unconscious ability to act.
Watching our 8-year-old foster son learn how to read is teaching me a lot about the development of automaticity. For months, he did everything he could to avoid reading. Yet, we were persistent in working with him.
Eventually, he developed confidence himself and began to see the utility of reading, and his motivation shifted from extrinsic to intrinsic. Now we have a difficult time stopping him from reading.
If you want to become world-class at what you do, you must get to the point where it becomes unconscious and automatic. Once you get to this level, you’ll be able to innovate and make your craft your own, because you’ll be operating at a higher frequency.
The aim of this article is to provide those in daily contact with children and adolescents with Down syndrome, including parents, teachers, classroom assistants and pre-school staff, with information that will enable them to help the children to talk more and to talk more effectively. It will also explain the need to take account of the children’s speech and language difficulties when involving them in classroom and school activities, and when teaching them to read. The article should also be useful to speech and language therapists, as it provides a guide to recent research and sets out the principles that should inform speech and language therapy programmes for children and adolescents with Down syndrome, drawn from that research.
Since I last reviewed the information available on this topic in 1993 , there have been many important papers [2-8] and book chapters [9-22] published on speech and language development, and several books [23-25]. These publications have all contributed is some way to an increased understanding of the language learning needs of children with Down syndrome and there is now considerable agreement among the experts on the principles which might guide effective interventions [2/5/10-13/25-27].
The title of my 1993 article was ‘Language development in children with Down syndrome: reasons for optimism’. I am even more optimistic as a result of the new information available now. The evidence suggests that most children and adults with Down syndrome could be talking more, talking more clearly and talking in longer sentences if we could provide those in daily contact with them with relevant practical guidance.
This does not mean that everyone should be working all day, everyday, on intensive language teaching activities, though in our experience, some structured teaching each day is important and I will return to this later in the article. It means that we can probably all improve the effectiveness of most of the normal everyday interactions that we have with children with Down syndrome, as parents, teachers and carers. If we have some insight into how children learn to talk and into the specific difficulties that may be slowing up this process for children with Down syndrome, we can create a more effective language learning environment.
At The Sarah Duffen Centre, we provide speech and language intervention through early development group sessions for children from birth to five years. We have also been engaged in research in this field for almost twenty years, so in writing this article, I am drawing on our own practical and research experience [28-34] as well as the published literature.
The article will address the following questions:-
- How do children learn to talk?
- What is the typical profile of speech and language development for children with Down syndrome?
- How much do children with Down syndrome vary in their progress?
- What does recent research tell us about the possible reasons for the delays and difficulties with talking experienced by most children with Down syndrome?
- Does the research provide any guiding principles that should inform intervention activities?
- What are the practical implications of this research for those caring for or teaching babies, toddlers, preschoolers, or children in primary school, junior school, secondary school or college?
The brain is able to process and respond; able to recall information it was exposed to before.
So ask yourself, what path do I need to create or follow, to see my dreams move from just an idea to reality? Deeply think about the process to follow that must be achieved firstly or the steps to make before that other leap is made, and write it down. Then, review it every day you awake and before you go to bed at nights without letup.
Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson has studied elite performers in music, chess and sport for decades, and he says the main distinguishing characteristic of experts is the amount of deliberate practice they’ve invested – typically over 10,000 hours.
This is painstaking practice performed for the sole purpose of improving one’s skill level. Best-selling authors like Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Matthew Syed and others, have taken Ericsson’s results and distilled them into the uplifting message that genius is grounded almost entirely in hard work.
But now a team led by David Hambrick have published a forceful challenge to the 10,000 myth. “We found that deliberate practice does not account for all, nearly all, or even most variance in [elite music or chess] performance,” they write.
“Memory is incredibly important for productivity in the workplace, but have you ever wondered how it actually works? It’s a complicated process that goes through many steps, and it involves many parts of your brain being used for a bunch of different types of memory.” ~ Kim Bhasin