4 students seated at table looking at a laptop screen

Yes, Learning Can Be Joyful!

Many students pursue a college degree with a specific life goal in mind, such as entry into a career field, or advancement within a profession in which they are already working. Even if coming into college without a solid idea for a major, the shared experience of college students is an understanding that a college degree will greatly increase the likelihood of a satisfying career and financial stability. On a broader level, a college degree can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Throughout this Study Skills & Learning Strategies site, we cover specific strategies for learning efficiently and effectively. We provide tools for making the most of academic “time-on-task” and for continuing forward progress toward degree completion. Often this is the focus among students: finishing the degree! This is entirely understandable. With the amount of time, effort, money, and other resources it takes to complete a college degree, concentrating on the “end goal” can help students stay focused and motivated.

With the drive to finish, it can be easy to miss something important: learning is joyful! Sure, it can be hard, and frankly, it should be. Learning only happens with effort, since cognitive “heavy lifting” is what physically changes the brain to create memories, connections, and insights. Much like building muscle or physical endurance, the hard work results in the growth of the mind. Learning also takes frequent, consistent practice. Just as becoming better at guitar, playing basketball, or a favorite video game takes repetition, effort, and time, academic learning requires that effort and commitment. And, much like we notice when our muscles grow, we also notice when we are becoming better at guitar, basketball, a video game, or an academic subject like Economics, Chemistry, Latin, or Creative Writing.

One difference is that, when learning in our college classes, we may experience additional discomfort, as exposure to new ideas may challenge our existing ideas. Along with the hard work and the amount of time it takes to truly learn anything, it can be easy to lose sight of the joy of learning. The joy of learning comes from:

  • Following one’s curiosity
  • Discovering new facts, concepts, and philosophies
  • Sparking a passion or interest
  • Building skills and abilities
  • Recognizing new ways of seeing and understanding the world
  • Embracing a sense of accomplishment

In essence, we are changed through the learning process in immeasurable ways. By all means, measure your progress towards your degree completion. Remember also to take time to reflect upon your learning. Share what you are learning with others. Think about how ideas and concepts relate to your interests, values, and life goals. This will help you maintain your motivation, work hard, stay focused, and enjoy the journey!

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