Based on the concept of the Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I developed a series of 15 Learning Languages or Learning Styles I present here to help people understand how we learn throughout our lifetimes. Learning Languages 9-12 are our ways of Learning from Experience. Learning from Experience means gaining knowledge and wisdom from the consequences, outcomes, and effects of our choices and unchosen circumstances. In this third article in the series, we explore the Learning Languages of individuals who grow and change based on Learning from Experience.
Learning Languages 9-12: Learning from Experience
- Learning from Failure and Mistakes
- Learning from Trial and Error
- Learning from Rewards
- Learning from Punishments
9. Failures and Mistakes
Not all losses are losses. Failures can be our greatest teacher. When we learn from our mistakes, we learn from what we tried and what didn’t work. Failure might be the end of a relationship or an unsuccessful business venture. Through these missteps, we gain valuable insight, experience, and motivation that can catapult us into future success. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, was cut from his high school basketball team. Jordan points to that early moment in his life as fueling his resilience, work ethic, and inner drive to be the best. Failure can teach us what we want, what new direction to pursue, and how to rise to new heights.
Are Failure and Mistakes my Learning Language?
- Do I make the most out of every situation, especially my mistakes and failures?
- Does a “wrong door” point me in the right direction?
- What mistakes or failures can I learn from?
10. Trial and Error
Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, once said he “successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Sometimes, trial and error is the best way to learn the most. We enjoy the independence of making our own choices and learning what does and doesn’t work through trying different options and looking at the outcomes of those choices. Trial and error teaches through experience, observation, and learning. For example, you might love cooking without recipes, perfecting your favorite dishes through trial and error. Or you may enjoy tackling a problem by brainstorming multiple approaches and proceeding through trial and error. For some people, the preferred learning style is a process of trying one method, learning from the outcome, and moving to the next.
Is Trial and Error your Learning Language?
- Is the process of trial and error enjoyable to you?
- Do you prefer to brainstorm possible solutions and try them each until successful?
- Do you learn independently rather than having others tell you what to do?
Rewards are positive reinforcements for behavior. If your Learning Language is rewards, you learn by observing what works well and keep doing it because you see those behaviors are rewarded. Compliments, monetary rewards, promotions, good grades, toys, trophies, and benefits are all examples of rewards. You like getting your paycheck on Friday and even a raise in pay, so you consistently show up for work and complete your tasks as requested. Every time you complete your annual medical check-up, your insurance gives you a gift card, so keep up your yearly appointments. You enjoy positive reinforcements because they motivate you towards behaviors that bring you more of what you like. You are motivated by prizes, compliments, bonuses, and rewards.
Rewards should not hurt us; they should be tempered with common sense and reason. For example, if I “treat” myself with a cigarette as a reward for eating a salad, is that really a reward for my health? Rewards can come from ourselves or others. If rewards are our Learning Language, we need to be mindful of motivating ourselves when there are no external rewards. Rewards are positive reinforcements as a Learning Language for our personal growth.
Are Rewards your Learning Language?
- Am I motivated by positive reinforcement?
- Is rewarding myself a way I stay motivated to grow?
- Do I determine which activities to pursue based on the potential rewards?
12. Punishments and Discipline
Punishments are negative consequences for behaviors intended to discourage a person from engaging in the behavior again. People who learn from punishments change their behavior and outlook on life because they fear experiencing repeated negative consequences. Even the dread of possible future punishments motivates individuals to make changes. Examples of punishments may include being suspended from school or work, incarceration, or being issued a ticket. “Learning the hard way” usually means learning from punishments or negative consequences.
People learn from punishments they have experienced, from observing others being punished, or from knowing of the possibility of a punishment occurring. Once they learn of the potential punishment, witness it, or experience it themselves, they avoid it. The negative consequence they endure or imagine is so undesirable that they want to avoid similar situations in the future and change their behavior. Sometimes, people who learn from punishments lack insight into their behavior and may even feel the punishment was not deserved. As a result, their learning is simply a connection between what happened and the negative consequence, concluding that some aspect of their behavior should not be repeated. In this situation, holistic learning does not occur, which may be why similar behaviors will recur. People who learn from punishments often have to endure repeated uncomfortable negative consequences before they learn never to do something again.
Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is a positive or neutral intervention for negative behavior that teaches a lesson by directly addressing the behavior causing the problem. If discipline is your Learning Language, you need the structure of an authority combined with a restorative practice. Often, punishment and discipline are used interchangeably with children and adolescents. Examples of discipline include chores that teach specific skills or signing up with an automatic payment plan to avoid missed bill payments. People who learn from discipline need repetition, structure, and guidance.
Are Punishments and Discipline your Learning Language?
- Do punishments teach you what not to do?
- Do negative consequences make you change your behavior?
- Does the possibility of something negative happening keep your behavior in check?
- Do you prefer structure to get you back on track?
If learning from Failures and Mistakes, Trial and Error, Rewards, or Punishments and Disciplione is your preferred Learning Language, then Learning from Experience is your preferred learning style. You learn best after experiencing an outcome, positive or negative, as your tool for understanding and development. The experience of a situation drives you to learn. You benefit from your lived experience and knowing the effects of your behavior as a path to learning. The next and final article in the series addresses Learning Languages 13-15, in which we will explore Learning from Power and Authority.
About the Author: Becky Brasfield is a writer and mental health treatment provider in Chicago, Illinois. Her works explore the recovery model, the depths of human emotion, and mental health. Becky is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) and Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner (CPRP). Her published works have included academic papers in the area of popular television and film, race, gender, and class, and a variety of topics in mental health recovery. The author wishes to acknowledge consumers at Centerstone Mental Health Center for their insightful dialogue about this topic.
- Motivating Success. (2012) “Famous Failures.” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLYECIjmnQs&t=5s
- Lord, Andre. (2021). “Trial and Error: Fail Your Way to Success.” Linkedin, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/trial-error-method-success-andre-lord/
- Cherry, Kendra. (2023). “Positive Reinforcement and Operant Conditioning: Definition, Examples, and How It Works.” Very Well Mind, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-positive-reinforcement-2795412
- Morin, Amanda. (Date Unknown. Accessed July 23, 2023) “The difference between discipline and punishment.” https://www.understood.org/en/articles/the-difference-between-discipline-and-punishment
More in this Series
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