Meta-Skills Reprise

I like to try and explain people things by hijacking their thought processes, and try to incorporate the ways in which I'm able to understand things into the way others understand. Even though we all understand the same concepts, I'm a firm believer of exploring the meta of how we understand.

A short example helps me articulate. When we think of people who say they are or aren't math people, these are really ways in which people built and attempt to apply the foundations of the way they understand things. A lot of this can be seen in concrete vs. abstract. Some people reject the concept of negative numbers. Most people reject the concept of imaginary numbers. Part of the blame goes to elementary school teachers who are forced to teach about the inner workings of mathematics in a very tightly bounded box, assuming they understand what they're teaching at all. Those who think realize that the bounding box is a teaching tool, not part of a reality we are so ready to accept so that we have something to hold onto when things get more complex. This is why we reject new information, but it doesn't need to be that way.

I hinted at a first issue: comfortability. No one wants to feel dumb, or confused, or stress themselves, or move out of their comfort zone within their own head. When we are taught something that breaks down everything you based your initial understanding of a concept on, it's scary to dive back in and try and rebuild the connections and create an even more complex structure in your head. At some point, we may revert to memorization, and everything build upon a base of memorization is destined to either fail or be forgotten soon after use. This is so bad, and it doesn't have to be this way.

These are the steps to developing meta-skills:

  • Recognize the way you've understood a concept
  • Understand how to modify that understanding to be built upon when the concepts that build upon it are more complex
  • Be open to the idea that you learned wrong, but that you can re-learn in a new way that will better allow you to learn new concepts
  • Actually modify your "base", or your understanding of a concept
  • Expand on the base with the new concepts
  • Repeat with the same concept for a refining effect, or with a new concept

How great is it that we have the ability to analyze the way that we understand and learn, and, even further, analyze the way we analyze ourselves and improve upon that? This is why these are meta-skills. We can break the boundaries of our subconscious and learn how to learn. There's always a why, something beyond what we're experiencing, that we have to ability to observe. We can observe the effects, or take note of our actual thought processes, and do something about them. We can make ourselves better. We can think better. We can think about how we think and why we think and fix our flaws.

We're so capable of being incredible if we accept the idea that meta-skills can be honed and developed, and if we take the time to analyze ourselves and self-reflect to eventually refine our thought processes to be incredibly efficient and great bases for expansion of our own knowledge.