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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

How Do You Learn?

Three steps to unpacking the way you learn

From the minute we are born we are programmed with traditional ways of doing things especially, with the way we learn.  Throughout my academic journey as a child I found myself constantly not living up to both my parents and teachers expectations.  School meeting after school meeting it was always she’s not applying herself, she’s not working to her full potential, she can be doing more if she would just stop (fill in the blank) and the list goes on.  The funny thing is that I tested gifted and even went to a school for the gifted but remained a mystery to my parents, administration, therapist and teachers for the duration of my school years. I never failed out of my courses and as my dad liked to say I did enough just to avoid the really big consequences at home (hello to my oppositional side) but I never really applied myself till 11th and 12th grade.  

Fast forward to college years.  I was now more in control of my academics when I started to realize the traditional way of learning that was imparted to me throughout my grade school years was ineffective and unproductive.  I didn’t apply myself all these years and work to my full potential not out of a lack of desire but that of knowledge. I didn’t have the knowledge about how I learned, retained and acquired information and for that matter no one working with me knew either.  Granted I wasn’t an easy child and that definitely made the process more fun for everyone involved (hashtag sarcasm) but at the end of the day the educators and I lacked the skills of understanding. Understanding how it is that I learned and the best way to have me tap into all my skills and use them to the fullest of my potential.

Based on my journey and countless others I’ve walked alongside, I want to help you get more clarity and understanding of the way you learn in order to be the best version of self and explore and learn beyond your wildest expectations.  Let the journey to understanding the way you learn begin with these three steps.

Step 1: Observe and take notes

You are the expert of yourself.  You know yourself best. You interact with yourself more than anyone else.  In addition to seeing yourself in many different settings, where you experience many different demands.  Your behavior is not random and your actions do not come out of nowhere. We need to identify patterns to help explain what’s going on and in identifying patterns we will be able to discover the source of certain limitations and start applying effective strategies to help.  Observe yourself and take notes on what you see as your input will make a significant difference when it comes to helping you understand and improve on your areas of weakness.

When you intentionally observe yourself and take notes:

  • You gain insight into when and how to intervene, what needs to be done differently in your routine, ways of doing things and lifestyle choices.

  • You get a fuller understanding of your learning and attention issues.

  • You will gather information about what is happening before, during and after a task.  When gathering this information take notes on when you are having the problems, and the day and time.  Your eating and sleeping habits. Any emotional, mental or relational stress you are experiencing. Any sensory elements with regards to setting, sound, comfort of surroundings.  The task you’re accomplishing breaking down what the demands are. Who else is around. What is your opinion on why you are having a difficult time in the moment with the task. Make a list what is your brain good at and what is it not.

Step 2: Understand and discover

The tests asssigned during our time together will allow you to discover: what your learning style is and what study habits you can improve.  Your strengths and weaknesses pertaining to your multiple intelligence. Understanding your sensory processing and executive functioning. Lastly, we’ll explore the most common learning disabilities.  

Step 3: Process and Plan

As you travel through this journey, you and I will be processing all of your observations, understandings, thoughts and feelings.  This process will help us (and by us I mean you and I) to better understand what you have been experiencing, brainstorm techniques, apply techniques, keeping the ones that work and doing away with the rest.  It’s going to be a process, but always remember you are worth it and you owe it to yourself to have a better understanding of your strengths and weakness in order to uniquely meet the demands of your environment, school and work.  You got this. We got this. Take a deep breath. We will figure this out together!


I'm passionate about helping people become "unstuck" in their unhelpful and/or unhealthy patterns of behavior. If you're in the Saint Lucie County Area and feeling "stuck" with feeling overwhelmed and/or any other debilitating symptoms of anxiety, please give me a call at 772-361-84408 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.


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