The Four Stages of Learning

The four stages of learning are:

  1. Mimicking
  2. Understanding
  3. Personalizing
  4. Improving

Let’s say you want to improve your flexibility. But you don’t know how. So, how do you start?

Mimicking others you want to learn from

You enroll in a yoga studio, and begin mimicking your instructor’s moves. You don’t necessarily understand why they are doing certain moves, but you do your best and follow.

Understanding the meaning behind the actions

As time progresses you begin to understand the applications of each pose.

Understanding why you are doing what you are doing can be a game changer. A mindset shift occurs that can spark new ideas.

Also, mimicking for too long without understanding can cause boredom. Therefore, once you become good at mimicking, try to understand the meaning behind your actions. It’s the only way you can move on to the next stage.

Personalizing through constant application

There is a famous quote by Bruce Lee, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically yours.”

As you develop your understanding, you will be attracted to certain poses because they fit well with your body type. Adapt them. Practice them more. Conversely, certain poses may be too difficult for you to perform. Discard them.

This can only happen through constant, diligent practice. Customizing and personalizing yoga to fit your specific needs takes time. Keep at it. In time, you will figure out the best yoga routine for your body.

Improving by incorporating your own ideas

This is the last stage of learning. It’s where you go from personalizing something to creating and improving something to make it uniquely yours.

Want to learn a new language?

Whether you’re listening to a podcast, an audio book or a person speaking that language, begin by mimicking them. Slowly, you’ll begin to understand what the words and sentences mean. Next, personalize it by using it in daily conversations, preferably with native speakers of that language. In this example, it would be difficult for you to add something that is uniquely yours, but give it a shot anyways. Who knows what can happen.

Want to learn how to invest in stocks?

Begin by mimicking another stock market investor you admire. Mimic their exact moves or their overall strategy. Ask questions to understand why certain moves are being made. Next, take their strategy and personalize it. Can you invest in different industry that you may understand better, using that same strategy? And lastly, improve it. Can you add or remove certain parameters from the strategy to make your stock selections even better, in turn producing greater returns? Try it.

Want to learn how to play music?

Again it’s the same formula. Mimic. Understand. Personalize and Improve.

Want to learn how to write code?

Mimic. Understand. Personalize. Improve.

I vividly remember going through this exact process (unconsciously, of course) when I was in high school and learning how to code webpages. I would look at the source code of other webpages, and copy them. Then I would try to figure out how it works. Next, I’d use the code on my own site and make certain tweaks. Once successful, I would try and mishmash multiple pieces of code to see if I could creating something completely different.

Want to learn how to golf?

Mimic good players. Understand each motion. Personalize it to your body. Improve your swing.

In conclusion

Learning something new can seem daunting. Because we automatically want to understand it before we mimic it. That’s not how learning works. You have to go through each stage in that particular order. Mimic. Understand. Personalize. Improve.

Hope this helps!


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