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If it’s broke, then try fixing it The importance of trying new approaches better learning and development

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By Owen Angus-Yamada

It’s back to school and outlooks for the 2018-2019 semester are sure to be varied. As the masses wait in line at the campus store for freshly pressed textbooks or shuffle through the McMaster University Student Centre crowds, it can be assured that many are already preoccupied with their grade point standing, the bane of their existence or, other side of the coin, questioning the real purpose of their classes and distancing themselves from their academics.

We are in a society that is afraid of failure and drawn to convenience. When we are faced with a challenge we often take the one of the two previously mentioned approaches: stress out — not the kind we get before a presentation or performance, more of the mind crimpling, time consuming variety — or give up; both leading to the same result: under-performing and having contempt for the initial challenge. This, however, is a choice and does not always have to be the case.

When we are positive and passionate about a problem we invest more time and energy into it. We may fail often but have the enthusiasm to learn from those mistakes as we move forward. This is what happens when, for example, you play guitar and want to learn a new song. You may butcher the same riff over and over and over, but you aren’t biting your nails and freaking out about not being able to do it right now or smashing your guitar and yelling “What’s the point? Life is pain.”

Although the latter is pretty edgy, both stressing out and giving up yield little results in the learning and development department, but by taking the failures and continuing to try, eventually you learn it.

I’m not saying that school is the same as guitar, or that you even practice guitar to begin with, but learning lecture material and learning a new song are both challenges that require you to be persistent with your approach and are affected by your outlook of the situation.

If you are pumped up and prepared to do some serious work this year then keep on rolling and let me get the heck out of your way but if you’re stressed or pessimistic already about the year than hears some suggestions.

If you’re stressed about your marks, try changing your approach and make getting a deep understanding of the material the priority. Get involved outside of the classroom in a way that you can apply what you are learning for better material understanding and retention. If you are resenting class because it’s boring or too easy, then maybe its time you step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with additional extracurriculars or try new classes where you are excited and interested in the material being taught. Change your approach to become passionate about your education, learning and development and the rest will fall in line.

McMaster allows for plenty of opportunities to vary how you approach your learning, development and overall university experience, even going as far to offer a new Personal Interest Course which allows you to try different, potentially more difficult electives, without fear of them penalizing the ever-precious GPA. It is also a hotbed of clubs, groups, competitions and societies available for the people who want to become more involved or those who want to explore other interests. It may not be easy and you may even mess up or fail a few times but that’s sort of the point.

So, if you find yourself pulling hair over midterms or endlessly binging the ever-alluring Netflix because you just can’t bring yourself to study or go to class, remember that you have a choice. You can take the red pill and keep taking the path of least resistance and subsequently the path of least results, or take the blue pill and find out just how deep this whole concept of trying a new way to approach for your learning and development really goes.

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