Why Seeking Difficult Challenges and Using Retrieval Practice Will Improve Your Learning and Growth

Esteban Tala

Hatched by Esteban Tala

Dec 29, 2023

3 min read


Why Seeking Difficult Challenges and Using Retrieval Practice Will Improve Your Learning and Growth

"You Must Seek This Out"

There were people who did difficult things, because as we’ve said before, difficult things are good for you. “We treat the body rigorously,” Seneca said, “so that it will not be disobedient to the mind.” We toughen ourselves up because life is tough. That’s what Stoicism is–physical challenges but also mental challenges and we subject ourselves to them so that, no matter what life has in store for us, we’ll be able to say as Epictetus said we need to be able to say: “This is what I trained for.” Well, are you training? Are you seeking out challenges? Or are you getting soft? What picture of a philosopher do you present? Academic or active? Tough or weak? Difficult things are good for you. Seek them out!

"2 tricks will help you learn and remember new stuff"

In our quest for personal growth, one important aspect we often overlook is the process of acquiring new knowledge and retaining it. Learning is a fundamental part of our lives, and finding effective strategies to enhance our learning abilities can greatly impact our success. Researchers have identified two effective tricks that can help us learn and remember new information more efficiently.

The first trick involves the concept of spacing and retrieval practice. According to studies, returning to the material after forgetting some, but not all, of the content can significantly improve our memory retention. Combining spacing and retrieval practice allows us to reinforce the information in our minds. By spacing out our practice sessions and attempting to retrieve the learned information, we create a stronger connection in our neural pathways, making it easier for us to recall the knowledge when needed.

"Forgetting is a very natural thing; you can’t stop forgetting even if you try, but you can slow down forgetting by using retrieval practice and spacing," explains Carpenter, one of the researchers. Many people mistakenly believe that learning should always feel easy in order to be effective. However, challenging ourselves and persisting through difficult tasks actually leads to more durable and effective learning outcomes. Merely highlighting or rereading a textbook may feel easier, but it lacks the knowledge check that comes with retrieval practice. Without actively engaging with the learned information, we risk falling into the illusion of learning, where we falsely believe we have mastered the content.

So, how can we implement these tricks in our learning journey? Firstly, we should create a spaced practice schedule, allowing for intervals between practice sessions. This interval should be long enough to allow for some forgetting, but not too long that we completely lose grasp of the material. Experiment with different intervals and find the one that works best for you.

Secondly, incorporate retrieval practice into your learning routine. Instead of solely relying on passive reading or highlighting, actively test yourself by attempting to recall the information. Write responses to practice essay questions, engage in discussions, or teach the material to someone else. These active strategies force your brain to retrieve and consolidate the knowledge, making it more likely to stick in the long run.

Lastly, embrace the challenges and difficulties that come with learning. Don't shy away from the moments when you struggle or feel frustrated. These challenging moments are the ones that truly push your boundaries and lead to substantial growth. Remember, the process of learning should not always be easy; it should be a journey of overcoming obstacles and expanding your capabilities.

In conclusion, seeking out difficult challenges and implementing effective learning strategies such as spacing and retrieval practice are crucial for personal growth and success. By exposing ourselves to challenging situations, we build resilience and prepare ourselves for whatever life has in store. Additionally, incorporating spacing and retrieval practice into our learning routines enhances our ability to acquire and retain knowledge. So, are you ready to seek out challenges and embrace the learning journey? Remember, difficult things are good for you. Seek them out!

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