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Posts Tagged ‘mechanical advantage’

There’s an important factor in learning and practicing that I’d like to bring to your attention. The scientific description is called state-specific learning. What that means is the content of what gets learned will be tied to the literal circumstance where you learn it. Context is important.

State-Specific learning is so effective that it’s actually used in animal training to solve behavior problems. If your dog is digging holes in your garden, you would deliberately train the behavior of digging on purpose while you’re located somewhere else (such as at the beach.) Then don’t give the command for the dog to dig at your house. The dog gets the idea that it’s only in sand that digging gets your approval, so there’s no use in making holes in the garden at home anymore because that results in your disapproval. You would turn the unwanted action into a command and then it has meaning when you don’t give the cue.

Most teachers assume that if you are an adult learner, you have the capacity to abstract what you are learning in their classroom or lessons in order to apply it to other instances that importantly similar. The factor of State-Specific learning works against this possibility. It’s a leap to abstract what has been learned; just because people can abstract, WILL they abstract? It’s an act of intelligence to notice the possibility to apply what was learned elsewhere exactly when this similarity of knowledge could be quite useful in this specific circumstance that’s a bit different. The ability to abstract takes observation, lateral thinking skills, memory and presence of mind. That’s why it’s important to directly consider the ability to abstract and apply what just was learned and to discuss the capacity to do so with your students if you’re a teacher.

For instance, I just published a story on my blog about how thinking about the lengthening phase of a motion while riding a bike helped me to refresh my range of motion in my leg strength while riding uphill. The comment of a reader who didn’t understand the abstract generalization of my message was, “I’ll do that the next time I ride a bike.”

“But that idea of using the lag in a phase is useful generally during any routine!!” I declared. “If you choose a ‘slack’ moment when you are gathering your energy to focus on in a cyclical phase, the other part (when you’re applying effort) will take care of itself in an easier and less stressed way.”

Unless you point to that concept specifically, it’s not a guarantee that people will make the abstract connection on their own.

So to do that now – (let’s say you’re reading stuff on the computer, right?)  You would observe routines that you do while in that activity, and choose one that isn’t imperative – so you can design a ‘resting’ moment into it that could offer a slight renewal for increased stamina over the long term. For instance, how about when you move your hands from the keyboard to the mouse or touchpad? (Or if you’re on another device, the time when you pick up your hand to use your finger to interact with the screen.) Why not use that moment to look away from the screen for a moment, perhaps look up and blink and momentarily rest your eyes and slightly turn your head. This only takes a moment, right?

By doing something like this, you’ll begin to be able to apply whatever you learn in one situation to other situations that do matter to you personally. Now that you understand whatever you experience can be applied elsewhere abstractly, you will be providing for the  limitations of State-Specific concerning anything you already know.

Can you think now of an insight or significant discovery you made that would be handy if it could be applied elsewhere?

 

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Let’s say that the medium is movement, how an intention translates into physical action. The challenge or proof that you’re doing as you intend could be to use less effort, more mechanical advantage, perhaps even an ideal economy of applied physical energy during motion.

Maybe you have a goal in mind, a purpose about why you are wanting to improve the way you move. Now there is also another challenge about how to interrupt one’s own routines.

I’ll explain what I mean by that last sentence. One direction will, theoretically by default, “cancel out” the other. At the moment when you direct your whole self to go physically in one direction, the other possible options are de-selected. You can’t go two places at the same time.

If you try that theory out by putting  a new improvement into action – what happens is your old routines have the power to run interference on the new things that you really want. Your habits do this as if it’s life itself that is at risk. What’s unfamiliar and new is totally threatening to most people. Granted that some people can leap… but in order to leap, they need a complete conviction that they don’t want the old same thing. Another way around that is to go bit by bit to reassure yourself, and the imperative protective alarms never go off. There are obviously more ways to make the unfamiliar less scary too…

It takes a clarity of intent to gather one’s sense of purpose and direct one’s whole self. But, maybe that’s not what it takes. For instance, people used to tell me that I was patient when they saw the detail in my artwork. But for me, in an experience of absorption, an experience of being patience didn’t exist because my attention was fully engaged.

This ability to direct one’s attention has many qualities – some work with your goals and some don’t so well.  The one that work the most flexibly are ones that don’t focus on the goal – strangely enough. The admonition to “Just Do It,” will likely activate what is most familiarly trained and ingrained. This works fine if you know how to do what you’re trying to do – like a music conductor who only needs to give the signal at the right time.

But how to practice to train a flexible habit?

Strangely enough, the best route is indirect and paradoxical. It is a brand of surrender or suspension of desire. It even works to use a brand of trickery: refusing to mentally say the “action word” and instead stick to the new steps of what you imagine might improve things. It takes at least sixty-eight times to train a new skill!

As a skill, it turns out that “taking out the complication” of the habitual routines is all that’s necessary. “The goal does itself” as the hindrances or complications are removed. This happening is a strange feeling of effortlessness – something you might need to get used to experiencing.

It’s worth it – you figure that out by doing what you couldn’t do before. The land of unfamiliarity is where all the new discoveries are.

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