Ever since I saw Inside Out a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about the way our minds work. It wasn’t just the movie. My life for the past six or seven weeks has pretty much focused on how much information I can cram into my own mind before the bar exam with minimal amounts spilling out again until the day after. Wednesday, July 29 at 5:30pm, all bets are off!
I’ve known since I was little that my own mind works in pretty strange ways, although it took me awhile to get through the self-absorbed teenage years and to recognize that EVERYONE has an individual mind that would probably seem totally wacky to ANYBODY else who was able to observe how it worked. Especially since our minds, like Riley’s in the movie, change over time. A few attributes have remained constants for me – logic, depth, and interest being determinative.
Logic. I’ve always been able to understand and remember a concept when I understand the “why” underlying it. I learn by applying and doing, rather than memorizing, and am better when facts are organized into a logical trajectory and need to be understood to wrap my head around some broader concept, whether literature or history or economics or law. Or even a ballet combination of steps, or lyrics to a song.
When there is logic behind the concept, a method to the madness, then I am able to learn in much greater depth. My parents and teachers often said I had a mind like a steel trap once I got into a subject, and I’ve always preferred to focus on fewer areas which I can then gain a greater understanding of.
And most crucial of all, interest. When I have an interest in or even true passion for learning something, there is no limit to the extent of it I can internalize. When I’m not interested, however…well, good luck to whoever is trying to teach me!
I’ve shared before the process of writing my first novel, and talked about how I work in ‘fits of focus’ – I can’t exactly say when they’re going to hit, and until they do I’m pretty much the world’s biggest procrastinator, but what I can say is that when all three elements are present in something I need to learn, those fits come more often, last longer, and end up being a lot more productive.
The upshot of all this is that it helps me to realize why studying for the bar has been so draining. It isn’t logical – it’s rote memorization of an immense body of facts. You need to have temporary knowledge of dozens of areas of law, so it’s all fleeting. And truth be told, most of it is uninteresting. For me, like for most bar-takers, only a few of those many subjects are actually going to be relevant to our professional practice. It’s all a memorization mind game otherwise!
Recognizing this isn’t going to make a difference in that I still need to cram as much into my brain as I can before it all spills out again the day after it’s over. But I think it’s important to understand that we are all wired differently and to take a hard look at our own ‘wiring’ because it means we should stop comparing ourselves to others, or being hard on ourselves for being equipped to deal with different situations life throws at us in ways that vary from how others might respond. It could even help us in choosing what sort of things we want to make our lives’ work. I love writing, I enjoy solving problems (when I’m interested in the outcome), and I definitely like a personal element to my work. And I definitely don’t like to be doing the same thing all the time! I don’t know what the future will hold, but I hope eventually to arrive at a place where my ‘mind personality’ meshes well with the life I am living. I feel confident that I’ll get there pretty soon 🙂
How do you think you learn best? Do you find it helpful when the way your mind works matches the task you’re performing?
© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved. (Photos courtesy of Disney Pixar)