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Episode 19

Learning How to Learn for Exponential Growth

Everyone wants to be happy but few people know how; in this conversation with Rick Hanson, psychologist and expert on resilience, we dive into how to foster the traits we want, the master trait we should acquire before we do anything else, and the crucial step in the process that most people aren’t aware of.

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How Resilience Relates to Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy but few people know how. In a world with ever more rapid and dramatic change, building resilience is absolutely key to sustained long-term happiness.

Resilience is the capacity to recover from setbacks, trauma, loss or disaster and also to sustain effort in pursuit of our goals in the face of challenges. The more a person is challenged and the less help available, the more important it is to develop inner resources.

The resources that make us resilient are also the basis for lasting wellbeing in a changing world, and for us to maintain a sense of meaning and purpose. Rick proposes that one must develop an “unshakable core” of peace, contentment and love.

There’s a lot of talk about gratitude and compassion as being magical tickets to resilience, however these are not enough and this approach also simplifies the issue.

Opportunity and Responsibility

About one third of personal attributes are baked into our DNA, are innate. The other two thirds are the result of our experience and our thinking. This means that those two thirds are subject to our own influence.

People talk about Identifying strengths and using them effectively, but what about how to grow them in the first place?

Step 1: You must experience whatever you want to grow.
Step 2: The experience must produce a lasting change in the brain.

Essentially, what is experienced as a beneficial state must transform into a beneficial trait. The opportunity is to really fine tune Step 2, which means extending the experience (neurons that fire together, wire together).

Rick developed the HEAL acronym for this technique, which is based on experience-based neuroplasticity:

  • Have the experience
  • Enriching the experience: Extend the experience by a few breaths and focus on what’s rewarding, enjoyable or meaningful about the experience.
  • Absorbing the experience: Really try to feel the experience in the body (not just theoretically).
  • Linking (optional): Be aware of both positive and negative material at the same time in order to heal the negative.
The Master Trait

When we learn how to teach our clients to learn, they can develop at a much faster pace, as they’re then able to work on building the traits they want to develop by themselves.

They can ask themselves, “What would be really good to grow? What do I need most?” Once they begin to practice this process and really learn how to learn, they can have an exponentially accelerating learning curve over the course of their lives.

All this requires is to focus systematically on building a psychological trait (e.g., self-confidence, worthiness, fortitude) by tuning into it 2-3 times a day – in total this is less than 5 minutes per day, and yet can have an enormous impact.

This is an invaluable tool in creating freedom, and one that deserves more attention.

Resources mentioned:

About Rick

Photo of Rick Hanson
Rick Hanson

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author. He also edits the Wise Brain BULLETIN and has numerous audio programs. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he’s been an invited speaker at NASA, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and other major universities, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.

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