I remember watching a then-16-year-old Martina Hingis win the Australian Open. She won high "admiration" from tennis fans across the world, including her opponent, Mary Pearce. Because of her namesake, "Martina" also rekindled admiration for the tennis legends who are beacons for self-improvement for us all. It is in the nature of human beings to strive for excellence and performance, and when we see it, we admire it. This occurs at every level from tots to seniors, from strangers we follow on the pro circuits to family members aspiring in their pursuit of skill and determination.
Whether improving a skill or strategy in tennis, as Martina Hingis did, or increasing our own family lives through effective communication, we all seek to learn how to do things "the right way." Ask other champions or members of your family if they would like to have people do things "the right way," and you will hear, "Yes, of course!" But when you ask: "Whose way is the right way?" You will be told, "Well, my way is the right way."
Indeed, we live in a world culture that often says, "My way or the highway." Each of us has a "right way," which is a unique "Learning Style," as does your heroine, hero, and those around you. Yet, such differences in perceptual "style" often lead to conflict, fear, threat, and intimidation in learning new skills, strategies, and processes of improvement. We’ve all heard complaints, such as, "I told Jane 10 times, and she still doesn’t understand!" or "What do I have to do? Draw Billy a picture?" Well, the truth is that some people don’t get it by listening and others do require a word picture to process information. And we get frustrated because THEY are different from US in how WE process information. These factors are often called "Learning Styles."
Answering a series of questions will determine your learning preferences and will give you information that has been proven by worldwide research to make a significant difference in your personal gains in learning, work, and personal life.
For example, your spouse or "significant other" is most likely to be opposite you on at least four of 21 critical learning styles elements, identified by award-winning researchers Drs. Rita and Ken Dunn, which determine how you perceive the world and process information. And, if you have two children or more, you will find that they are opposite on many items that make up a personal "Learning Styles Map."
Consider a few other different "learning style strokes" for different folks.
1. Time of Day: Each of us has a period in the day that is best for us. Are you an early-morning person whose best time is before 10 o’clock? Or, are you one who prefers late morning, or early afternoon before three? Perhaps you prefer from between three and six. Then again, maybe you are an evening performer. Your best time of day is the time to reinforce your learning, work, and performance. Your worst time of day is when you weaken and break your determined efforts. So, each day, seek to perform and practice during your best time.
2. Social Preference: Do you like to work alone, in pairs, in small groups, or in teams when doing something new and difficult? Often when learning or improving, we "go it alone." If you are a solo person, then go ahead and carry out your pursuit of excellence in a self-directed way. But, if you like to work in pairs, you will most likely succeed only if you work with someone else. On the other hand, you might prefer to work, study, or practice in small groups or in teams. Your preference will often determine the level of the outcome.
3. Perceptual and Communication Preference: Do you speak rapidly with short breaths, indicating your thoughts in terms of seeing things. If so, you are probably a visual learner, as opposed to auditory or tactile-kinesthetic. You know an auditory learner by the slower pace of talk, resonance of voice, and reference to how things sound. On the other hand (no pun intended), if you are slow paced in your talk and like to sense the things you think about, then you will talk in terms of feeling or grasping things.
The point here is that you should consider that most learning instructions are carried out simply as verbal statements and are seldom translated into communications preferences. When you learn new and difficult things, write down your vision, goals, and objectives. Also draw a doodle or cartoon of it as well. Constantly repeat stories about your success. Translate into tactile-kinesthetic processes where you "feel" the result, perhaps by carrying a picture of your ideal self on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse.
4. Analytic or Global Preference: You might be "analytic," which means that you prefer at least three of the following: bright light, quiet, formal room design; doing one thing at a time; and no food or drink intake. If you are "analytic," you view the world in details, facts, specific directions, and rules of conduct. You almost always start at the beginning of a task and proceed routinely in a step-by-step fashion. In addition, you work best in bright light at a desk or table while sitting upright. You rarely eat or drink while working and prefer a quiet environment.
a) If you are "analytic" in your approach to learning, make sure that your plans for improvement, goals, and objectives are consistent with this "checklist" approach.
b) On the other hand, "global" means that you prefer at least three of the following: dim light, sound or music, informal room design; many projects at one time; and food or drinks while pursuing tasks. If this sounds more like you, then you want to get the big picture and translate it into what it means for you, why it is important. You care less about the steps, details, or procedures involved, but care more about the end in view. You often skip from one part to another, sometimes starting in the middle or the end and then go to the beginning of a learning exercise. You prefer stories, humor, and explanations. Make sure you reinforce values, meaning, and importance for you; otherwise, you will get lost in the goals, put yourself down, and quit your pursuit.
Having a "map" of your Learning Style and "self-knowledge" is critical to your plan and the steps for achieving your advantage, which reveals the differences that make a difference in performance, success, and achievement.
In conclusion, the joy of Martina’s youthful victory and her personality of delight is an inspiration to us all. Another 16-year-old, Liesja Tortorello, wrote words that capture Martina’s fresh perspective: "Carpe Diem," or "Seize the Day." Capture all of life through the senses, work the heart, and challenge the mind. Absorb into the soul all the beauty that is hidden under worldly surfaces. Do not settle for anything less than what you can do, what you deserve, or what you just purely desire. Each of us can embrace new challenges as a time for new beginnings, for us to acknowledge how we learn best and to honor the dignity and integrity of other "different strokes for different folks." This will help you achieve: "Advantage, Yours!"