Learning orientation

Strengthening our self-efficacy by focusing on tasks works especially when we focus on simple tasks in predictable and manageable contexts.

But there are some situations in which we continue to reach our limits.

  • Think of delicate situations in communication, for example, when we want to address a person in whom we are interested but who we do not yet know.
  • Think of demanding technical requirements when playing an instrument, such as a passage from a piano concerto by Rachmaninov.
  • Or think of a similar situation in sports, where it is crucial to perform a movement precisely and in a controlled manner.

All these requirements take less than two minutes.

The number of steps we could argue depends on how we divide the movements.

  • But at the last moment, when we already stand in front of the beloved and only must open our mouths to say something wise or even better, something that resonates, that’s one step.
  • To learn the complete run over the piano keyboard with the Rachmaninov concerto is a project. Maybe even a big project. But we can fail at the fingering of one little step of this run repeatedly. And perhaps this is exactly how we become virtuosos: by working on this small step instead of indulging ourselves in those passages that we already master. For the connection between practice and learning, in the field of music and beyond, I recommend the book “First learn to Practice” by Tom Heany.
  • And throwing a dart is also a single action that can go wrong – even if we can argue about whether darts is a sport.

What can we do when there is a risk of failure, and we want to abolish it?

We can extend the previous concept of self-efficacy with a small detail that catapults our self-efficacy to undreamt-of heights. We cannot completely abolish failure, that should be said, but almost.

With this important extension, we put the concept of success and failure aside and replace it with the concept of learning orientation.

We take the decision not to go through life as men of action, of people who do stuff and implement things. Instead, we go through life as researchers. We constantly try out new things. And in doing so we learn. And some things we try out again and again. We called this “practicing” earlier.

The great thing with this approach? We can always be successful, no matter what experiment we dedicate ourselves to, even if we fail superficially. The only condition we have to meet is: We learn something from the feedback or results of our experiments. The ingenious thing about it: On the sidetrack, we unfold our potential in a relaxed way.

We stop insisting on wanting to play Rachmaninov flawlessly

Instead, we turn to the question of how we get our fingers to understand the required movement sequences. We’ll probably make it sooner or later. Until then, we practice and are successful learners. But perhaps sooner or later we will come to the conclusion that we will never succeed. Or we find out that we prefer to play jazz instead of classical music. That is completely alright. Because in each of these situations we have learned something new. That’s how we become successful in any situation. And with each of these situations, we nourish and strengthen our motivation.

Perhaps we were pushing ourselves to our limits with our original project. But then we learn something. Often, we must adapt the set-up of our experiments in order to gather feedback that we can process better. This means that on another sidetrack we are continuously learning about how we can learn better.

And sometimes, for some reason, we turn away from some experiments and take on new ones. That’s perfectly fine, too.

One thing is crucial

With this new orientation toward learning, we do not deviate one millimeter from our original orientation toward tasks. And these tasks still meet two criteria: they comprise a maximum of two minutes or two steps.

The question arises as to why we cannot completely abolish failure…