HOW TO BE YOUR OWN BEST TEACHER

Thinking about it, kept you up all night. There would be no rescue from the agony; sleep was postponed indefinitely, while it waited. Laid open, beckoning-- challenging you to master it. Though the test was in two days, the true test was your ability to conquer the fear that generates procrastination. And get going so you can learn and put this thing-- and you-- to bed. It has happened to all of us at one time or another. There you were "inside" your head, minding your own business, when suddenly, you were threatened with something that had to be learned...now! The test was coming: A school subject, a presentation at work before two levels of management, a home improvement project or even assembling a child's toy (with an easy-to-follow sixty-page booklet of instructions!). Made you want to run for cover.
Well, you can come out now! It may surprise you to learn that an extraordinary IQ is not essential in order to learn...rapidly and efficiently. A major difference between those individuals who learn well and those who fail to do so is that the latter experience considerable interference or "noise" in the form of negative internal dialogue and feelings of self-doubt, fear and avoidance. In order to muffle the noise, take an active role in the process you are about to undertake from the start. While sitting in front of the material to be mastered, take a few deep breaths and think of a time when you were engaged in any task or activity that led to feeling energetic, stimulated, confident. Perhaps it was exercising; cleaning and organizing a room long overdue, making a series of repairs, or successfully assembling something like a barbecue. Take these feelings with you to the task at hand.
In order to learn something effectively, improving your understanding while eliminating procrastination, it is useful to ask yourself some key questions about the task at hand. We need a "task at hand." How about what many would consider necessary but ominous? Something that the faint-of-mind have managed to avoid. The "C" word: Computer! My system arrived in four boxes (not including the furniture). Surely there was a nuclear scientist somewhere who received a psychologist's system in a single box by mistake! Nice fantasy, but the computer wasn't going to assemble itself, and there was work to be done. A lot of work.

  • 1- What is my purpose in learning this? Do I work for a computer company? Am I taking a computer language course? Electronics? Hardly. The computer was purchased to support a useful psychological treatment modality. Essentially, after assembling the equipment, it was necessary to learn how to turn it on and load-- then access-- the software for the treatment program. It would also be nice to learn how to type documents which in computerize is known as, "word processing." Given my purpose, much of the "User's Guide", could be skimmed. Computer manuals are notorious for generating anxiety because they contain many presuppositions. An example of a presupposition is, "The cat jumped off the table", presupposing it had first been on the table. Much of the language and symbolism contained in these manuals presupposes earlier knowledge that often is absent. Defining your purpose may allow you to delete much of this "deleted" material thereby circumventing anxiety.
  • 2- What useful entering skills do I possess? A major modeling process by which we learn is "generalization." After learning to turn a door knob, you can open other doors. What do I already know from past readings, conversations, similar experiences about the topic to be learned? What positive associations do I have to it? What would I like to know? Keyboarding always seemed easy, having played three instruments for years and easily acquiring typing skills. A piano and typewriter seemed an extension of my hand; a computer, though similar in some ways, still seemed to be playing a different tune. I needed to orchestrate these discordant parts.
  • 3- How can I separate the "wheat" from the "chaff"? Determining what's important in large measure depends on your purpose. Begin reading for the salient points that relate to your needs. Every concept is conveyed in its own language. Become familiar with new terms. Understanding "C prompt", "B drive" and "word-processing program" were important.

Once, I was asked if I could modify programs with the "autoexec.bat" command. I declined, knowing I could always call the "Autoexec.bat Club"...