The starting point of all achievement is desire. ~Napolean Hill
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.
I believe that in spite of all that is going on in the world; in your community, in your home for instance, it is possible for you to live a more meaningful life.
Whatever you choose to do in your life that is positive, can move from just being an idea in your head to becoming a reality.
So, what do you want for yourself? Do you want to become a better father or mother, student, athlete, business person or spiritually minded person for example.
I want you to read through this book and truly find value from the information that is placed within.
I challenge you to be better because I know you can.
Sometime ago I was speaking to a group of students at a self development program. The objective was to bring inspiration to them, and so, motivation to achieve whatever they positively set their minds to.
I remembered preparing for the presentation and an interesting question came to my mind. I asked myself, what is the driving force behind achievement?
I took the word GOAL, and create a mnemonic to help them with this.
On a piece of paper I placed the word GOAL (one letter per line on the page) and then started thinking about it deeply. What is it in this word GOAL that can make us achieve, focus, and make us successful in the pursuit of our dreams?
As the creative process in my mind went to work, my hands started writing on the sheet of paper.
I then looked at the letter G. The letter G, stood for get up and get the work done, become actively engaged, get the information necessary to complete this task. It is by means of initiation, a push or pull action that work gets done. Remaining stationary is self-defeating when seeking to bring a dream to reality.
The other letter O, reminded me of being organized. Many times persons may have a vision, know exactly where they need to be or what they need to be doing.
Probably it is an overwhelming action or habit in your life that you want to change or a quality you want to develop. There is a level of organization that must take place.
Person’s dreams, goals or their purpose may not yet be realized, though they know where they want to be in life, but because of failure at seriously organizing themselves, work may not get done.
There are a few electronic programs you can use to get organized. The ones I generally use are: Evernote, Google drive and Google calendar. From time to time I still use a pencil and paper to record an agenda for the day. If you are unfamiliar with the programs or apps (Evernote, Google drive and Google calendar) you can do some research online on them. YouTube has a great deal of information on all of these. Learn how to use them to organize your day, week, and even months. They have great reminders and can sync well with your smart phone and other electronic devices (tablets and laptop computers).
Reflective practice activities
In thinking of our goals and how organization is critical, think about what you need to do.
- Is it that you need to get up earlier to study for a course you are enrolled in?
- Is it that you need to prepare your meals for that diet you have embarked on and will need to get your food containers and meals prepared before leaving the house; not leaving it to chance, believing that you will past by a health food store on your way to work?
- Or is it that you need to pack your school bag or meeting case the night before, so that the materials needed for that class or meeting is ready to be a part of your success the following day?
It is important you ask yourself these questions, as organization is essential for success. The answers you will obtained from these questions may be viewed as simple and something that people already know, yet reflect on your situation for a moment and you may observe something you do not know.
Reflective practice activities
Questions to ask yourself
- If I already have these answers how effective is my organizational skills, given I know what I want to achieve?
- Am I using these skills to the full, as a habit, or am I just using them occasionally when I feel stressed or remember to do so?
To be organized, you want to have access to a personal daily planner book (this book should have the feel and comfort that is inviting to you, as well as the pen you use) for recording your plans for that day—actually, using it each day of the week, and yes even on Saturdays and Sundays.
Most persons have these planners but seldom use them correctly or use them at all.
My encouragement to you is to start recording your plans for today and future days, today. See what you have to do and feel the joys of ticking or crossing them out as they get done.
We live in the technological age. Do you have a cell phone? A number of persons today on the planet will say yes to this question.
Interestingly today, cell phones are not only use to communicate with other people, be it verbal or text. With the use of Windows, Android apps and many other user platforms, games, eBooks, movies, Skype, emails or just surfing the World Wide Web has been made possible.
On a number of these devices, storage capacity is quite enormous. As such, if you already have in your possession, one of these cell phones or tablet devices, use the digital planning programs they come with (or download one, most of them are free) for creating agendas or plans for the day or for the week. This may take a few minutes but the outcome will be great.
NOTE: When you plan a productive day, the feeling of accomplishment and the knowledge that whatever we are working towards is getting done, is indeed fulfilling.
A friend of mine asked me once, after a meeting we had.
“How is it that you get so much done and not be stressed?”
I remember looking at my friend with a gentle smile then a slight chuckle, “Well, from time to time I do get stressed”.
“Yes really, but I am never stressed over what I need to do next or where I need to go. I just check my calendar of events for that day on my smart phone and off I’m gone.”
“I need to be more like you,” was my friends reply.
I must admit though that at the beginning of my career, this was not something I was accustom doing.
There was this particular week, I remembered having a series of meetings to attend and presentations to prepare for and students course materials I had to mark, trying to remember client’s information. Not remembering to check the email my boss called and asked me to read and give feedback on. That was a big problem for me. This was a challenging week, this was my disorganized week! So yes, you can say I learnt the hard way but that should not be your experience. So create the habit of being organized by including tools in your environment to assist, and see yourself moving one step closer to accomplishing what you set your mind too.
So to conclude on this point of organization using electronic devices. Remember to take note of what you need to get done on your Smartphone/ tablet and sync the information onto all your other electronic devices. So any one you log onto, the information is there.
Do not be afraid that you may lose your phone or someone will steal it, your information is sync on all of your devices. If you are still concerned, put a pass word on your phone, tablet or computer, and so if you lose your phone, someone else can not steal your plan for the day!
NOTE: Remember that failure to plan is self defeating. Be organized and achieve your dreams.
For students who have had trouble in school, or who have had a negative summer, it is especially important to get the school year off to a fresh start. And for all students, having a positive mindset makes learning much more likely. Here are four activities to help accomplish these goals.
Identity and Purpose: Who Am I?
Now that students are back in school, it’s a good time to help them refocus on learning, their strengths, and the personal and other resources that will help them succeed. Students can individually fill out the grid below, and then pair-share, discuss in small groups, and finally share with the class some of their responses. (Students tend to be most comfortable sharing numbers 2, 4, and 6 below when in larger groups.)
You may also wish to use other creative forms of sharing, such as having students create a collage or chart with all of their answers to each question or the top three answers to each question. Consider integrating this activity into any journal writing your students do.
- What motivates me?
- What are my best abilities?
- How do peers influence me?
- When and with whom am I at my best?
- Who are my best sources of help?
- How can I do more of what will best help me to succeed?
A Living Poll
Read each statement and, based on students’ opinions, have them move to a part of the room that you designate to represent each of the answers below. The three areas of the room are for those who believe any of these three answers:
- It’s mostly true for me.
- It’s partly true and not true.
- It’s mostly not true for me.
You can choose to present the following questions positively or negatively:
- “I think school is pointless.” OR “I think school is important, and I need to learn so that I can succeed.”
- “I can be violent in some situations.” OR “I am more peaceful and would only use violence where there is a real danger.”
- “I think that trying doesn’t matter.” OR “I believe that the more I try, the more I can succeed.”
- “I do what makes me popular with others in school.” OR “I do what I want and what I think is the right thing to do.”
- “I come to class to pass the time.” OR “I am someone who wants to be involved in school and learn.”
After each statement (or others that you may wish to add), ask students in each area of the room to share why they believe as they do. There is great value in students hearing peers’ views about why they have turned to a more positive mindset. And it’s instructive for the teacher to get a sense of students’ views. Note that students may move to an area where they “think” that the teacher wants them to be.
Asking them to articulate why they believe as they do is your check — and their reality check — on whether they really do have the belief that they’ve endorsed. You may want to end with a discussion of the challenges of sharing honest opinions.
Journaling About Beliefs and Mindset
As a supplement to the above or as an activity in its own right, have students respond in their journals to at least one of each stem:
- I used to be _______ but now I am _______
- I used to think _______ but now I think _______
- I used to do _______ but now I do _______
There is added benefit to revisiting these activities mid-year, or even after each marking period, to see how ideas are changing (positively or negatively).
Make a Good First Impression
First impressions matter. Teachers have told me the importance of decorating classrooms in ways that catch students’ attention and gives them something to think about at the same time. Give your students clipboards and a questionnaire asking them to notice different aspects of how the room is decorated. Come together to discuss what differences students noticed, why they think you made those choices, and what they would add if they were you. You can adapt this for younger children, as well.
Share with us in the comments section below your experiences with these activities and especially your more effective adaptations.