44 - Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

دوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 44

Coursera – Learning How to Learn

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44 - Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

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I love reading history and being

inspired by the biographies of

extraordinary people.

One of the most unusual people I’ve ever


about, is inspiring not only because he

was so extraordinary.

But also, because he was so ordinary.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal was a born


In rural Spain of the 1860s, there

weren’t many options for oddball juvenile


So that’s how at 11 years old, Cajal found

himself in jail.

Cajal was stubborn and rebellious.

Who knew that Santiago Ramón y Cajal would

one day not only earn the

Nobel Prize, but eventually become known

as the Father of Modern Neuroscience?

Cajal was already in his early 20s when he


climbing from bad boy delinquency into the

traditional study of medicine.

There’s evidence that myelin sheaths.

The fatty insulation that helps signals

move more quickly along a

neuron, don’t finish developing in some

people until they’re in their twenties.

This may explain why teenagers often

have trouble controlling their impulsive


The wiring between the intention and the


areas of the brain isn’t completely


When you use neural circuits however, it


you help build the myelin sheath over


Not to mention making many other

microscopic changes.

Practice appears to strengthen and


connections between different brain

regions, creating

highways between the brain’s control


and the centers that store knowledge.

In Cajal’s case, it seems his natural

maturation processes coupled with his own

efforts to develop his thinking, helped


to take control of his overall behavior.

It seems people can enhance the

development of their

neuronal circuits by practicing thoughts

that use those neurons.

We’re still in the infancy of

understanding neural development.

One thing is becoming clear, we can make


changes in our brain by changing how we


Cajal met and worked with many brilliant

scientists through his lifetime.

People who were often far smarter than he.

In Cajal’s autobiography however, he

pointed out that although brilliant people

can do exceptional work, just like anyone

else they can also be careless and biased.

Cajal felt the key to his own success was

his perseverance.

What he called the virtue of the less

brilliant, coupled

with his flexible ability to change his

mind and admit errors.

Anyone, Cajal noted, even people with

average intelligence, can change their

own brains so that even the least gifted

can produce an abundant harvest.

People like Charles Darwin, whose theory

of evolution has made him one of the most

influential figures in human history, are


thought of as these, sort of, natural


You may be surprised to learn that much

like Cajal, Darwin was a poor student in


He washed out of medical school and ended

up, to his father’s

horror, heading out on a round the world

voyage as the ship’s naturalist.

Out on his own, Darwin was able to look

with fresh eyes at the data he was


Approaching material with a goal of

learning it on

your own, can give you a unique path to


Often no matter how good your teacher and

textbook are, it’s only when you sneak

off and look at other books or videos that

you begin to see what you learn

through a single teacher, or book, is

a partial version of the full three


reality of the subject, which has links to

still other fascinating topics that are of

your choosing.

Taking responsibility for your own

learning is one

of the most important things you can do.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal had a deep

understanding, not only of how to

conduct science but also of how people

just interact with one another.

He warned fellow learners that there will

always be those who

criticize or attempt to undermine any

effort or achievement you make.

This happens to everybody.

Not just Nobel Prize winners.

If you do well in your studies, the people

around you can feel threatened.

The greater your achievement, the more


people will sometimes attack and demean

your efforts.

On the other hand, if you flunk a test,

you also may

encounter critics who throw more barbs,

saying you don’t have what it takes.

We’re often told that empathy is

universally beneficial.

But it’s not.

It’s important to learn to switch on an

occasional cool dispassion that helps you

to not only focus on what you’re trying to

learn, but also to

tune people out if you discover that

their interests lie in undercutting you

such undercutting

is all too common, as people are

often just as competitive as they are


When you’re a young person, mastering such

dispassion can be difficult.

We’re naturally excited about what we’re

working on, and we like to believe that

everyone can be reasoned with and then,

almost everyone is naturally good hearted

towards us.

Like Santiago Ramón y Cajal, you can take

pride in aiming for success.

Because of the very things that make other

people say you can’t do it.

Take pride in who you are.

Especially, in the qualities that make you


And use them as a secret talisman for


Use your natural contrariness to defy

the always

present prejudices from others about what

you can accomplish.

I’m Barbara Oakley.

Thanks for learning about learning

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