LittleEngineFrom my earliest teaching of Edu-K, I have delighted in showing people that they can be effective learners when they don’t try, but simply do their best. Often trying harder simply intensifies the stress learners already feel when they haven’t yet developed a skill. Yet most learners, when doing their personal best, discover their capabilities on their own, once they’re encouraged to explore the physical skills related to the task at hand. In Brain Gym® and Me*, I described it in this way:

“Ultimately, we don’t want to be struggling all the time, but dedicated effort of the right kind is always needed until it’s no longer needed. If you’re learning the piano, you stick to your lessons until you master the instrument so well that you can forget you’re playing the piano and simply enjoy the music. If you’re going to run a marathon, you train hard and follow a schedule so that, on the day of the meet, you can enjoy the bliss of reaching that exquisite state in which you’re effortlessly in the flow.

Life is a continual process of going from low gear to high gear. Low gear is the appropriate state for new experiences, as we consciously and methodically do whatever is necessary to learn them, code them, and follow through on them. It’s the phase in which we climb the mountain with care until mountain climbing is installed in the body. Finally, when we reach the pinnacle of high gear, we enjoy the “I thought I could, I thought I could” experience of The Little Engine That Could as detailed in the well-known 1940s storybook by Watty Piper, that came with a phonograph record; as a child, I played that record so often that I wore it out).

What gave effort a bad name is that, as children, we were expected to try hard for no reason—at least none that we could see or understand. When adults fail to nurture, at home or at school, a child’s intrinsic interest in learning, they are compelled to replace it by external motivators that co-opt the soul in the name of education. This disconnection from our own inner sense of purpose and destiny carries on into adulthood and accounts for the well-known ‘mid-life crisis,’ triggered mainly by the heart’s rising need to have its own frustrated purposes listened to.”


This passage is excerpted is from Brain Gym® and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning, by Paul Dennison, © 2006.

© 2013 by Paul E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved.

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