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Most anything we do in life, either to satisfy our own interests or lay the groundwork for a career, takes a bit of training. We have to learn specific skills required to perform specific jobs. Some of us learn better than others, but the ability to learn is not entirely based on our genetic makeup. You can actually learn how to become a better learner by internalizing specific attributes. Here is a list of the five attributes of an effective learner:

1. Self-directed
2. Inquisitive/Curious
3. Self-aware/Honest with self
4. Risk-taking/not afraid of making mistakes
5. Open-minded

Self-direction is very important to the learning process. It takes mental effort to really master a skill, meaning that you need to actively engage your mind when in class or while doing your homework. If you can envision how a certain skill or class will help you in the long run, you can motivate yourself to take more pride in your day to day work.

The process of learning involves making connections between disparate ideas in your mind. If you learn something in a class one day and learn something related to the first idea the next day, you need to be able to relate those two common themes in order to internalize them. If you have trouble connecting the dots, you need to ask people to help you. Asking questions and being inquisitive is essential to learning, because the process involved in formulating a question often helps crystallize a new concept in your mind.

Being honest with yourself is essential to learning. Many people, when fuzzy about a certain concept or skill, prefer to gloss over their fuzziness and focus on something less complicated. This only hinders them in the learning process. If you're confused about something, you need to admit that you don't have all the answers and go look for help. This admission may be tough at first, but it will ultimately help you to become better at whatever you're trying to accomplish.

When trying something new, you're taking a risk that you won't get it right the first time. So you're going to make a few mistakes from time to time. If you're too afraid to look silly, you won't engage your mind fully in a training session, and thus won't learn as much in the long run. You need to take your mistakes in stride as part of the learning process.

Finally, a good learner needs to be open minded. New concepts are sometimes hard to grasp. You'll enhance your ability to learn if you're willing to look at a problem from a different perspective even though you may not agree with it.

These five attributes of an effective learner can help you really expand your mind and hopefully more fully appreciate a degree program or class.

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