What is your motivation for learning?

Grab a piece of paper and write that down.

All of us have certain goals that motivates us to learn something new. The exact reason can vary a lot from person to person. But all of this translate to goals we have for ourselves. If you are in school, an important goal would be to finish grade 12. At university, finish your degree. In business, qualify for a promotion.

If you are in school or university, the end date should be a goal.

I will finish school/university in <insert year>.

Add a few other goals to the one you already have. If possible, add a date, although this is never essential. Life tend to happen. What works better is to classify your goals as short, medium and long term goals. If you're in the grade 10, a long term goal could be to finish matric. Short term goal to get to the other end of this pandemic with grades intact. Medium term to finish the year successfully despite the virus. The same applies to university. Finish the semester. Pass the subject. Complete the assignment.

You probably have other goals as well. Buy a new cell phone... Mmmm, not a good one. Go on a hiking holiday. Spend a weekend with friends. Practice and improve my drumming. Add these to your list.

It is good to have goals. But a goal by itself doesn't translate into reaching the goal. I can have as a goal to go on a hiking holiday, but sitting on the couch will not get me into the bush with a back pack. I need to go to the store, buy the gear. Get on the web, look up destinations. Book travel. Convince friends to come along. We'll take bug spray for the goggas!

These are all actions you have to perform to reach the goal. In terms of learning, these will be habits you have to acquire to keep you moving consistently towards the finish line. In learning, the most important principle is not to get everything done 100% on the first try. We learn from mistakes, as long as the mistake is corrected. We are aiming for incremental small improvements. To study smart, we have to incorporate these habits into our study cycle; making constant adjustments on the way.

You now have a set of goals on the table. Hang on to these. Expand on them as ideas bubble up. This will become your life list. Things you want to do, now and in the future.

There are several learning habits that will take us on our learning journey. But they all rest on a solid foundation. The foundation consists of three items. Eating. Sleeping. Exercise. If these three are not in place, whatever we place on top, will have problems. We might still succeed, despite a weak base. But it will take a lot more effort, and wear us down over the long term. We will examine each of these in turn in the next installment.

For now, have another look at your goals, and add a few. Have fun while doing this. Add a few trivial items. Run down the road and around the block on 17 April! That's not so trivial.

See also on the Twitters: A small difference in your daily habits early on results in a wide gap in your outcomes over time.