Learning Can Be Fun

woman in white and black striped shirt standing on yellow sunflower field during daytime

There can be great fun in learning something new when you can equate learning with fun. Will it be a challenge? Of course! But we humans are built for challenges. We grow because of the challenges we meet, even if we aren’t successful at first.

Most people are familiar with the phrase, “use it or lose it,” which is usually said about muscle power. But scientists studying how the brain works have made some discoveries indicating that this saying holds true for our mental capacities as well.

They have discovered something about mastering difficult tasks that is quite fascinating. They have found that the better you get at doing something difficult, the less brainpower it takes. While we learn, the brain is creating new pathways. Each time the new task is accomplished successfully, the more substantial the neural pathway becomes. Once this pathway is established, the messages travel faster, and less energy is needed to move them along.

Now, in some ways this seems to contradict common sense. For instance, if you asked a runner to leap over obstacles in addition to increasing speed, he or she would obviously have to expend more energy.

However, the brain apparently works in the opposite way, using less fuel as it becomes more accomplished and as challenges are increased. The relationship between practice and performance has always been obvious to musicians who know that it gets easier and easier to do more complex things, as you become a better player. (“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice. Practice. Practice!” It’s an old joke…)

We know that the same principle holds true for all of us. That is why it is so important to hang in there in the initial stages of learning a new skill, even if you feel awkward and frustrated. If you do, the payoff will be there for you down the road and it will get a whole lot easier.