Among the top skills that you can have, a passion for learning is one that lies at the foundation. Becoming a passionate learner will also drive you deeper into the skills and hobbies that make life meaningful.
How to develop a passion for learning
In this article, we’ll discuss some basic tips to develop a passion for learning and how to develop it. We’ll also talk about some reasons why developing a passion for learning can be tricky. Let’s start talking about how you can become a passionate learner.
What is passion? What is passion for learning?
Passion is a confusing word – it’s the ying and the yang. It’s the feeling of intense emotion, love, and striving through suffering.
At one moment, you may get no joy from learning and simply grit your teeth through the process.
At yet another moment, you could be completely awestruck by something new that you learn.
According to Dr.Vallerand, author of The Psychology of Passion, passion can be shown in several ways:
- Passion as love for an activity
- Passion as love and sexual passion
- Passion as intense emotion
- Passion as enduring suffering
The most interesting part about the varying definitions of passion is that it can be love for an activity and enduring suffering. We have all felt when we have passion for learning something at one moment and at another moment we’re ready for a nap.
What is passion for learning?
Vallerand also notes that passion plays an important role in learning. Most importantly, it helps learners engage in deliberate practice for an extended period of time. It also helps learners adopt the path to mastery. Both deliberate practice and the path to mastery are made easier when the individual is passionate about the subject.
If we look at the examples above, we can start to put together a definition passion for learning or being passionate about learning:
Passion for learning is a commitment to the path of getting new knowledge, mixed with both love for the process and the ability to endure the challenges of continuous study.
Tip 1: Start small – create achievable goals to develop your learning skills
A classic example for developing any skill is weightlifting. When you enter the gym for the first time, you’re not going to pick up 75 lb dumbbells and try to curl them. At this initial stage, you could discourage yourself and risk injury. Instead, you should develop a structured plan. One that continuously pushes your boundaries but doesn’t fatigue you too much. You can also take this same approach to learning.
One way that learners can increase their skills is through SMART goals (source).
SMART is an acronym that you’ve probably heard of: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Or, if that SMART goal is already too much. You can just assign a flat amount of time every day to try to learn something new. The point of choosing a flat amount of time is that you will at least be trying to put yourself in the learning mindset for a certain amount of time each day. It’s also incredibly simple. Eventually, once you have built up the habit of sitting and trying to learn something new, you can start to structure your time and specify how you spend your time on a deeper level.
Tip 2: Choose something you like
While some people are truly interested in learning for learning’s sake. Many of us are inclined to different fields of study, whether the humanities, science, math, or liberal arts. When developing a passion for learning, it’s important for you to start out with things that you have a general interest in.
Even if you are trying to learn something to get ahead in the workplace, do you really think that you are going to continue developing something you dislike after you reach a certain level of proficiency? And what happens after you complete your studies on a topic you don’t like? You will end up losing your level of expertise in the area.
For this reason, it could be helpful for you to learn about something that you have an interest in learning. Then, once you start to excel in the topic, you will start to show the passion for learning that you want.
Tip 3: Keep it exciting
Boredom plays a big role in destroying a passion for learning. Often boredom comes from too much repetition or a focus on certain skill sets within a subject that take the learner far away from the activity itself.
An example of boredom from language learning can be when a learner focuses too much on grammar, rather than speaking with new people and engaging the culture they’re interested in. Of course, grammar is important, but so is applying your knowledge in the real world. Keep a watchful eye over your excitement for the skill you’re learning, and make sure to mix in activities that make you excited to move forward.
Tip 4: Do the activity with someone else
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, other people, groups, and online communities can help you develop a passion for learning. Other people can challenge your existing ideas and also show you new ways of seeing the subject. Most importantly to this article, they can expand your passion for learning.
Duolingo, a popular language-learning app, has had forums with a dedicated following for the past decade. Users can ask questions and give answers to help other users. In this way, it is instrumental to the learning process.
Tutors have been part of the learning process for as long as teachers. Over time, the cost and ease of finding a tutor has become less. You can find tutors on almost any subject online (Of course, do your due diligence!), and you can also look within your network to find someone who’s looking to make a little extra money on the side.
Some language tutors can be found for 10 USD an hour, for example. No matter the subject – it’s good to have an expert available to help you overcome the challenges in the learning process and expose you to another passionate learner.
- Friend and Family
If you’re looking to save some money, you can always find a friend or family member who shares the same fundamental interest as you do in learning.
If you’re looking to learn more about the top American films, then you can print out a list of the films and watch them with another movie lover. This pursuit allows you to grow closer to the other person but also expand your learning in an area you love.
- Other students
On many online course platforms, you may find it challenging to connect with your peers. However, if you do have access to a forum, you could post in it about your interest in creating a discussion group. While it may take more work at the beginning, learning through dialogue with your peers can expose you to new and different viewpoints.
Tip 5: Be realistic
The introduction to this article talked about passion as enduring suffering. Perhaps it is suffering that keeps people from developing a passion for learning.
We do not learn things we already know. Instead, we learn things we had never thought about before, and every so often this can lead to failure, or the question: Am I smart enough to learn this skill? This question scares us and forces us to confront our limitations. After all, if a passion for learning was easy to develop, would we be writing articles about it?
Depending on your age and educational background, you might already know a bit about your learning abilities.
Were you a decent student in high school and college?
What subjects do you succeed or struggle in?
These questions are important for you to consider when learning new skills because your abilities will determine how long it takes you to learn certain subjects. It’s not that you cannot learn new skills in many instances but that it takes you a longer time.
An example of this is language learning. The United States military spends hours and hours helping recruits to adopt languages across the spectrum of difficulty. Over time, they have assembled a hierarchy of languages, based around the time to gain a certain level of fluency (source). Not only is language difficulty a factor but also the individual matters. For example, Zafar and Meenakshi detail a few factors (source):
E. Learning Styles
F. Learning Strategies
The point here isn’t to discourage you from learning new skills where you’ve struggled in the past. It’s rather to take a realistic approach, understanding that your learning journey might take a little longer than others.
Tip 6: Use tools to develop your passion for learning
Learning tools, such as journals, online videos, online courses, computers, old-school textbooks, can help you speed up your learning and reflect throughout the learning process.
A journal or learning journal can help you focus each study session on a core skill you want to learn (source). It can also help you write down relevant questions that you might need to ask someone else or search for online.
On your learning journey, you’re going to have times when you end the day with new challenges, and there will be days when your head is bustling with ideas. A journal will help you keep both types of thoughts in one place so that you can remember that developing a passion for learning has both highs and lows.
Whether as part of a course or just as a single video, you access courses on online course platforms or on YouTube. The options are seemingly endless. When it comes to these tools, consider your level of skill, your discipline level, and your funds available. You can find resources at every price point and almost every level of difficulty.
A computer or a mobile phone will be crucial to developing your passion for learning. It allows you to access key programs for learning, online courses, online communities, and information you can’t find elsewhere.
For certain skills, you might want to go with an old-fashioned textbook. It’s not a bad decision. You can keep the textbook for as long as you need it. You can also resell it for a similar amount that you once bought it for, and you can also see subjects from different perspectives. After all, each instructor is going to come at the topic from a different perspective.
Tip 7: Find the things you can’t live without
This is a tip that comes with age, and younger learners might not understand this. In the workplace and in your personal life, you’ll have countless opportunities to learn. Every time someone avoids taking responsibility for a task at work – that’s an opportunity for you to step up and start learning a new skill.
This same phenomenon will happen at home – your coffee-maker breaks. There’s nothing stopping you from trying to fix it. But, herein lies the question: Should I dedicate my time to fixing the coffee-maker? Is it worth a few more bucks? You will find different answers everywhere you look.
Over the years, you will try new skills and watch as your passion dies. On the other hand, there will be a select few items that you learn and actually stick with to a level of proficiency. For one reason or another, you can’t live without this skill.
Your friend or relative might have an interest in fixing broken coffee-makers, and they might make a lot of money on the side, using their skills. But is this something you want to do? Is this something that keeps you up at night? You will find that the stuff that comes up repeatedly over the years and bothers you will be the stuff that you’re actually willing to develop.
Conclusion and next steps:
If you’re looking to put some of these tips into action, start by choosing something to learn. Then, start small with clear goals and keep realistic expectations. Of course, if you’ve become good at something in the past, then you might be able to ramp up your skills in the beginning.
The passion to learn is a bit of a paradox. It is sometimes wonderful and sometimes it is about enduring suffering. Knowing that you will discover both feelings, you can push yourself through on your way to developing your passion for learning.