Dr. Lisa Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, wrote on Twitter the other day, “The most expensive tasks that brains do are (1) moving your body and (2) learning something new. They have a metabolic cost that may feel unpleasant. So feeling bad doesn’t always mean that something bad happened. You might just be doing something really hard.”

Her comments provided a healthy dose of expectation management — specifically concerning what it feels like to learn.

Though we may experience joy and desire while entertaining the idea of learning new things, the experience of learning itself often imparts a contrasting experience filled with unpleasant feelings like frustration or agitation.

To experience these emotions are not a signal that you’re falling short in the learning process. Quite the opposite: they suggest that you are going through the necessary motions to acquire knowledge and develop new skills.

There’s no reason to treat the learning process any differently than a physical workout.

There is invariably some kind of pain experienced along the way, but with it comes adaptations and growth.



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William Liao

William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)