The Untold Truth About Learning – Five Mindsets That Can Hold Us Back

“Change is the end result of all true learning” – Leo Buscaglia


To me, the deep connection between learning and self-love is obvious. Let me explain: Buscaglia’s quote sums it up. True learning will bring about change. Personally, I strive to change my inner self for the better. To achieve this, I have, and I will have to continually learn new things about the world and about myself. I think change is good and inevitable. Everything in nature is constantly changing and evolving. Since we as humans are part of nature, this applies to us as well. I’m so convinced about this fact that I called my business ‘Change with Eva’. My motto is to keep evolving, changing and becoming better. I may be a little obsessed with it, but I hope I can convey my enthusiasm about learning and the mindsets that can hold us back.

Mindset 1 – Mr or Ms Know It All

Many people believe that if they do a little bit in terms of self-development or even professional development that it should solve all their problems. I think, these people selling themselves short. There’s always so much more out there to discover and experience. Others think, because they’ve read a self-help book, they know it all and can just stop learning. This type of thinking can hold people back from developing new ideas. Sometimes this mindset is a sign of deep insecurity. A person, who defends their view of themselves at all cost instead of being open to change and new learning, is essentially closed and not confident enough to take on challenges.

Trying to avoid this mindset can be tricky, if we think we are experts in a certain field. This can lead to complacency and keep us stuck. Let’s face it, no matter how much we know, there’s always more knowledge to acquire and new skills to learn. It could just be a change in perception, and suddenly, a whole new world can open even in our most familiar fields.


Mindset 2 – Fear of Opening Pandora’s Box

Other people are afraid of new things or insights. They think, it could be too painful and thus, they avoid learning even about themselves. They feel like they could open Pandora’s Box, a beautiful treasure chest from the outside and full of ugly worms inside according to Greek mythology. They hold a deep-seated belief that they are inherently bad. It makes me sad, when I meet someone like this. It’s almost as if these people are cutting themselves out of life and their limiting belief of themselves is holding them back big time.

It’s important to challenge hidden beliefs like that one. Get rid of it and dive into something more positive (you can always ask me, if you feel you would like to get rid of limiting beliefs – I’m happy to guide you through this). Even if you do not hold beliefs like that, change, and learning for that matter, can tease us out of our comfort zone. Yes, sometimes, learning is a bit scary. I don’t think though, it’s so scary that we should avoid it. In fact, I often say to my clients: The energy of the universe is forever expanding – no comfort zone for the universe! Just go with that flow of energy, instead of contracting. Contracting, making ourselves smaller, trying to disappear out of shame, guilt or fear is not going to help us grow and become better. Although, it can be a bit scary and challenging to step out of our comfort zone, it’s very rewarding. And, when you have a coach, they can gently encourage you and figuratively speaking, hold your hand.


Mindset 3 – Perfectionism

Self-love does mean to accept ourselves just the way we are. However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need to change anything. Self-acceptance is encouraged especially for those, who tend to beat themselves up all the time. Nothing is ever good enough. They strive to be perfect. Note, that’s not what I understand by striving to become better. Perfectionism has nothing to do with self-love. It’s rather detrimental to self-love and true learning. You see, perfectionism is fault finding. It zooms in on the smallest deviation from what the person determines as perfect. It’s essentially negative and it breeds more negativity in the mind. It prevents true learning, because the perfectionist is so busy with looking for things that are done wrongly that there’s no space for learning something new.

The first step for perfectionists to get out of their self-made mind prison is practising self-acceptance. Once they can let go of their own negative mind game and being a little kinder to themselves, it’s then possible to being open enough to learn something new. That’s right, you will need an open mind for learning (and self-love) and the willingness to step out of your comfort zone (with handholding).


Mindset 4 – Fear of Failure

There are a few more boulders that could hold us back from learning freely. One is fear of failure. Luckily, when we are little children, we haven’t got this fear. If we did, we would not even learn to walk. Instead of being held back by fear, we fell over again and again. And, it didn’t deter us from getting up and trying again.

For some people, it could be the formal learning experience at school that destroyed their joy of learning and made them fearful of criticism and judgement. From working with my clients, I know that some experiences at school can be traumatic and have the potential to even influence future careers. However, it’s possible to overcome these traumas and move on with a renewed sense of adventurous learning.

There’s been a lot said about learning from mistakes. Theoretically, we know that we learn from mistakes. Still, in practice the fear of failure can hold us back. I suggest starting small. Small bits of learning can lead to small mistakes, which in turn could be perceived as not a big deal. Practice this repeatedly, until it becomes normal to learn from tiny mistakes. Then, increase the risk. Before you know it, it’s normal for you to learn from bigger mistakes.


Mindset 5 – Preconceived Ideas and Opinions

This mindset can sneak into the thinking of even the most open people. We all have internal biases, as psychologists call it. These biases prevent us from being open to new learning. Our brains love to make shortcuts and build neurological highways that make our thought processes quick and easy. Additionally, our brains love creating habits. It’s great to have our brains working like well oiled machines, where everything works smoothly. All this is very useful for survival. However, once we get too much set into our habits and ways of thinking, we can easily fall victim to this mindset of preconceived ideas and opinions.

That’s why it’s sometimes difficult to learn something new. It could challenge some of the brain’s superhighways. Instead of saving energy and sending all thoughts down that superhighway, the brain must build new neurological pathways. This can be uncomfortable and requires walking a path of resistance. No longer can we relax into the comfort of our familiar thoughts. However, when we think the same thoughts continually, we get stuck in a rut and lose our ability to be creative and learn new things. Even though, it may feel impossible, learning something new, can help to get out of this rut. It could be as easy as starting with an intention of learning something new in a field we are already familiar with. For example, someone who likes practising yoga, could endeavour learning a new pose.


The 3 Phases of Learning

Hopefully by now, you are convinced that learning is good and should be practiced all the time. Practice with self-love though and be kind in your learning. If you haven’t done much learning recently or are prone to harsh self-judgement, start small. Start with something you love. For example, if you love walking in nature, learn something about the birds where you regularly walk.

It’s also good to know that learning has three phases. We tend to look everything up on Google, but do we learn anything? It’s rather that we consume knowledge, but this doesn’t mean that we’ve learnt the information. However, acquiring knowledge is the first phase of learning.

Once we found out something new, we need to ‘take action’ and do something with this new knowledge. This is not only important for getting the information into long-term memory, but also to continue the learning process into the second phase of learning. Confucius famously said: “I hear, and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” I would take it a step further and say, that true understanding and mastery comes from explaining it to someone else.

The third phase of learning is reflection. In reflecting on what has been learnt, the true value comes to the surface. Especially, when we realise that learning from mistakes is very effective and can help us so much more than getting everything right the first time around.

I hope you’ve learnt something from this topic and are keen to learn even more.

Happy learning,

Eva