5 Ways To Build A Positive Attitude to Learning

So you need to learn a new skill or brush up on an old one?

Or maybe you need to retrain completely, start your professional journey from the beginning? The stakes are high: your career progression, your job security, your and your family future.

You know you need to do it, you should do it, or even you have to do it.

Intellectually you agree – learning new stuff is the most reasonable thing to do, no doubt about it.  But… on the emotional level you are struggling: you can’t quite see yourself doing it, you think you’re too old, or not bright enough, you don’t feel motivated to learning at all.

Stop this negative self-talk! It’s killing your ability to learn and achieve your goals. In order to succeed in whatever educational pursuit you are embarking upon, you need to develop the right attitude to learning.

Research shows that attitude to education is one of the most important factors in predicting academic success. Positive attitude to learning is not something we are born with, it needs time and effort to be developed and nurtured. But it is doable, and here is how you can build it.

1. Review and reframe your motivation
Our motivation to learn is one of the most powerful factors affecting our attitude to education, so let’s start with it.

You know why you need, or have to learn that new skill, but do you know why you want to do that? Our needs, wants and musts are not always aligned, sadly. And while it’s not bad to do something for someone else’s sake (e.g. so your boss gets off your case), or for an external reward (money, promotion), the best motivation comes from within.

If your drivers are external, e.g. someone else’s demands, requirements or an external reward, don’t resent it. Reframe your external (extrinsic) motivation into an internal (intrinsic) one. Intrinsic motivation is powered by a desire to be autonomous, the joy of mastering a skill/subject, or the happiness of pursuing your purpose. So if you’re doing that social media marketing course because it’s a way to achieve promotion – look at it from the achieving autonomy point of view: do you want financial independence that a higher position can give you? The need to retrain after redundancy can become an opportunity to learn a new skillset to enable you pursue your goal of helping others thrive.

Intrinsic motivation to learn is your long-distance fuel on the road to educational success. Invest in developing an internally driven motivation and it will last well past any pay rise and promotion. You will thank yourself for it in times of doubt and struggle.

2. Clarify and track your learning goals
If your motivation is your driver, your goals are your destination. Of course, you can go for a drive just because you enjoy driving around. But if you need to get somewhere (like those social media marketing skills), you need to know where you’re going. Having clear, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) goals can enhance your motivation to learn and help set clear expectations.

So what are you trying to achieve? By when? How will you know you got there? What do you need to get there?

Don’t stop here. Since you expect yourself to succeed, not only set your goals, but track them. Tracking your progress will help you visualise your success and will boost your motivation, particularly at times of struggle. This will also help you develop another vital ingredient of your positive attitude to learning – sense of self-competency.

3. Leverage the power of people around you
I’ve mentioned expectations above – you should expect yourself to succeed, because, as I’ll show you a little later, this is a crucial ingredient to the right attitude to learning. Moreover, you should tell people around you to expect you to succeed. Surround yourself with people who not only support you emotionally and practically, but also can hold you accountable. And if they truly believe in you, and take this challenge seriously, you are on the winning, although a little uncomfortable (because you will have to deliver on the promise!) path!

4. Build a self-efficacy mindset
Self-efficacy or perceived competence is a vital component of the right attitude to learning. It is a way of approaching challenges, tasks and goals in a positive, constructive manner. So a problem is a challenge you are going to overcome, a goal is a destination you expect yourself to achieve, a task is something you can tackle because you believe you have what it takes to get it done.

Believe in your capability of achieving your goals. Expect yourself to succeed. Secure some small, early wins. Success breeds success. If you fail, learn from this experience, get up, adjust your plans if needed and keep going.

Learn from watching other people achieving success you’re after – whether it’s in real life, or from instructional videos. Talk to them about their educational journey; ask them for feedback on your performance. If, for whatever reason, you have no direct, real-life access to any role models, read, watch and listen to stories of success, or reach out via email/social media to people who inspire you.

The more you do it, the more confident and skilled you become and eventually – you will succeed.

5. Make it last
Intrinsic motivation is great, but let me tell you a little secret – there is something even more powerful than that to carry you through moments of doubt and struggle. It’s habits.

Establish a few learning-supporting habits, such as a study routine, an exercise routine (exercise boosts your ability to learn and remember) and a healthy sleep pattern. Nurture supportive relationships and walk away from people who affect your negatively. Surround yourself with people and stories of success and grow your self-efficacy. Practice your positive mindset regularly. You will succeed and you will enjoy the journey.

Joanna Jast is an entrepreneur, Udemy instructor and a life-long learner herself. She shares her passion for productivity, study skills and habits, and all sorts of tips & tricks to accelerate learning and personal change on her blog: www.shapeshiftersclub.com


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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