Education is an important part of changing the world, and learning how to learn effectively is one way of increasing the potential impact you can have.
Jussi Hölttä is a coach, educator and blogger, and founder of Interbeing. I recently caught up with him at the University of Helsinki’s Think Corner.
What is your quest?
To grow a generation capable of peace. Helping people learn is the step that I’m working on right now.
I ask what the key problems are with the way people currently learn.
It’s less about the problems, and more about the potential. I prefer to focus on making things better rather than fixing problems. There’s basic stuff like the conditions where people try to learn; you can’t force learning for example.
Our school system has historically been predicated on the very idea that you can make people learn, but Jussi is optimistic about the overall trends in education.
The school system is getting better, for example phenomenon-based learning helps people become interested in learning itself. It’s a waste of potential if people are forcing themselves to learn something without understanding how everything’s connected.
What are the key challenges you face?
Jussi admits that he sometimes struggles to express his ideas clearly.
It’s hard to speak plainly about something you’ve been immersed in for six years! I’ve spent so long figuring out how I learn, then pouring science on top of that, that coming out of that hole and explaining it to people can be difficult. I sometimes get lost in the details.
He addresses this through writing, blogging and discussions with different audiences.
What keeps you motivated?
I guess a sense of purpose… that this needs to be done. It’s something I can do, and it needs to be done.
Who is with you in your quest?
Jussi has found a community of like-minded individuals at Dare to Learn, which he is involved in organising. Dare to Learn is a two day international festival of learning, now in its second year after a successful launch in 2017.
Dare to Learn currently manifests as a conference, but it’s going to be more. I don’t know exactly where it’s going, but it’s bigger than it is.
Who inspires you?
The Dare to Learn team, obviously. There’s a clear pull towards a better future there. And my kids; they’re one- and three-years-old, and they already teach me so much.
On the science side, there’s a lot of neuroscientists. Especially Matthew Lieberman and his lab doing social cognitive neuroscience.
Social cognitive neuroscience is a relatively new, but fast growing field of psychological research, which is bridge the gap between social psychology and neuroscience, to help us understand how brain mechanisms shape our social interactions and our society.
Then there’s the Center for Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Saki Santorelli, Florence Meleo-Meyer, Judson Brewer. They have mindfulness researchers and teachers going really deep into the science of mindfulness.
There is a growing body of evidence that mindfulness aids learning on multiple levels, including stress reduction and the ability to connect with people.
Instead of forcing yourself to learn, you can just stay curious and start paying attention. Both of these are things you can practice.
What would be your advice to someone wanting to do something similar?
Help yourself to learn first. That’s how I ended up here. You can’t get deep into this without learning about yourself.
You can start the journey through mindfulness. At first I wasn’t even trying to figure out learning, but I realised that we live, we learn. It’s not just empty words, that’s what we are.
Now it’s your turn…
You can start creating positive change in the world by learning more about yourself, and how you learn.
Things to think about:
- What would you like to learn?
- How can you make learning easier and more enjoyable?
- What positive and negative experiences have you had that shaped your views on learning?