From fashioning make-shift facemasks, to choosing favourite hand-sanitiser scents and sound-proofing our home offices, Covid has taught us new short- and long-term ways to navigate the mess of life.
As Dr. Ian Malcolm, mathematician, chaos theory specialist and Jurassic Park guest, wisely once said, ‘Life, uh, finds a way.’
But what is the process behind this constant learning and adaptation? And how can we ‘hack’ it to work in our favour? Could we work with our natural wiring to become better learners, workers and human beings?
Introducing The Learning Loop
And this is critical to how we understand, process and reduce stress - and build wellbeing.
The good news is that nature also wired us with curiosity, creativity, and the ability to connect with others to navigate these challenges. For example, everything you’ve ever learned to master in your life—from walking to speaking a language to building good relationships with others—you did so by taking three simple steps:
Acting – You’ve drawn on your curiosity and creativity and maybe even the wisdom of others to playfully experiment with different ways to accomplish the behaviours that have mattered most to you.
Assessing – You’ve used your curiosity to reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, and how you can use what you’re learning to continue improving the behaviours you’ve chosen to master.
Adjusting – You’ve used your learning to continue adjusting your behaviour until you can consistently achieve the outcomes you’ve wanted.
Over and over again you’ve travelled some form of this simple Learning Loop—often without even being conscious of the steps you were taking—until you’ve reached mastery in a behaviour. This is how nature has wired you to perform at your best. Unfortunately, often we misread bumping up against our limitations, falling short of our ideals, or wrestling with obstacles and setbacks as signs that we are “failures” instead of perfectly imperfect human beings who are still learning and growing.
How To Run Your Own Learning Loop
Travelling the 'Learning Loop' doesn’t always guarantee your desired outcomes, but it does provide you with opportunities and support to take one step at a time and realise your true potential:
Act – Rather than expecting yourself to go from zero to mastery instantly, try to playfully experiment with different ways to accomplish the behaviours that have mattered most to you. You can level up by investing in learning, grabbing a buddy or coach to inspire you, or triggering your desired actions with tiny habits, environmental nudges, or mindful signposts.
Assess – Instead of letting your negativity bias run riot and point out only your failings, be sure to ask yourself: What went well? Where am I struggling? What am I Iearning? Even in your worst moments, something will be working, and you want to identify and build on these strengths. Likewise, even in your best moments there will still be room for improvement. Just remember that more important than the outcomes you’re working towards (can you even remember what you were trying to achieve six months ago?) is the learning that you can carry forward towards achieving your potential.
Adjust – Try to avoid beating yourself up with self-criticism in an effort to motivate yourself to try again. Instead, reach for self-compassion and—like your wisest and kindest friend, coach, or mentor—hold yourself accountable for the mistakes you’ve made while reaching for the strengths you can build on to get back out there and try again. Far from being soft, studies suggest that self-compassion improves our resilience, confidence, and performance.
Learning to understand yourself and how you respond to certain situations gives you the framework to reduce stress and prevent burnout. Coach Indie can help you assess, act and adjust. The learning loop is one more step on the road to positive mental health.
So get started on learning today!