Monday, April 11, 2011

Knowing Is Not Doing - A Learn-By-Experience Exercise

When it comes to learning, Aristotle is the man. He got it right 2,400 years ago:
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

“Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it: men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts, we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave.”

Or as I like to say, "You can't learn to play golf by reading about it in a book. You have to hit thousands of golf balls."

Or the adage, "Experience is the best teacher."

So it's fine to enjoy a thought-provoking quote or read a book or participate in a training program, but what you learn won't become the way you act if you don't actually apply it in real life. Not just once, but again and again. This repetition is what stimulates the brain cells involved in the action to gradually connect with each other, so that you literally rewire your brain. Actually doing what you learned, practice, and repetition physically hard-wire circuits in your brain so you can perform the skill or behavior pattern automatically, comfortably, and naturally.

Aristotle didn't know about the brain science, but he knew that it's practice that leads to mastery. If you've ever learned a sport, acquired a skill, or ingrained a new behavior pattern, then you know this, too.

I make a point of this because in real life, when you're caught up in the flow of events, usually you won't do what you learned to do if you haven't ingrained it as a habit. Most of the time you won't suddenly stop what you're doing and say to yourself, "Wait a minute. I learned a better way to do this. I should do try doing it that way right now. Let me see here...."

Likewise, reading a quote or thinking about some wisdom won't - by itself - change the way you act. Knowing something important is a good start, but knowing isn't the same thing as doing. You have to take the knowledge one step further. You have to apply what you learned in your life. Then reflect on it. Then apply it again. And reflect on it again. It's like hitting thousands of golf balls.

Try this exercise...

1. Read the quote and the "fortune cookie" below...

"Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind." - Bruce Lee, Chinese actor (1940-1973)

Hunker down in your comfort zone, and the world will pass you by.

2. Answer this question: What single truth do the two messages convey to you?

3. Make a plan to consciously apply this truth in your life.

4. After you've applied the truth, answer the "5 Magic Questions"....

This is the kind of "Focus-Action-Reflection" learning cycle people are encouraged to use in the online virtual coaching system, ProStar Coach.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength

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