learn to iterate. iterate to learn.

I only realize it now but my Physics studies taught me something unconsciously that changed my perspective and mindset drastically. And, grasping its importance now, I think this should be taught and learnt consciously — not only as a side effect but as a clear goal.

Often we think and act very one-dimensionally. We do the same thing over and over again while expecting another result. We might learn with the same methods expecting better results. We might cook the same recipe expecting it to taste better. We might behave in the same way expecting another outcome.

What I unconsciously learned in university and what got me out of this one-dimensionality is to iterate.

Learning to iterate, creating an iterative mindset is an important skill for learning and development, and almost every other area of our lives.

importance of iteration

If you don’t iterate, you just repeat the same thing over and over, expecting other outcomes. You make the same mistakes again and again. You are just stuck.

Iterate to get unstuck. Iterate to learn from mistakes. Iterate to learn something new. Iterate to try new approaches and perspectives. Iterate to explore. Iterate to make progress step by step.

In learning start with a question, research materials, anticipate what might be the answer, try to understand and explain it or apply the new insight. Now reflect. While explaining or applying, you most likely will come across new questions, new gaps in your understanding. Go back and iterate. Start with a question again. An iterative learning method will help you learn step by step and build a deeper understanding.

learn to iterate

Iteration is a great skill to improve your learning, personal development, and your day to day life. But how can we learn to iterate? How can we build and foster an iterative mindset?

I don’t have a clear answer. I just know, if we want to internalize a skill or a mindset, we have to do it a lot. At first consciously before it becomes an unconscious skill.

So start iterating wherever you can. Start iterating wherever you feel comfortable.

If you are a productivity nerd, iterate your morning ritual. Research great morning activities but don’t try to do them all at once. Pick one and see if it improves your morning and your day. Reflect. If it worked great, keep it. If not, get rid of it. Now try the next activity. Either in addition to the previous one or as a replacement.

If you like cooking, try new recipes. Try to play with the ingredients. Reflect on what works and what doesn’t. Don’t give up or get annoyed. It is part of trying something new. The important part is to come back and iterate.

You can also start learning to iterate by learning with iteration. One of the most famous learning techniques that use iteration is the Feynman learning technique. Iterate whenever you can, wherever you can.

Once you have built an iterative mindset and iterate unconsciously, you will also start to iterate on your learning and other areas of your life.

little detour

It even helped me with my parenting skills and more specifically with my diaper changing and teeth brushing skills with my kid — which can be really frustrating as a parent.

Instead of doing the same thing over and over while expecting another result — that our kid magically likes brushing his teeth — I always tried and tested new approaches or activities. We typically expect the kid to change their behaviour out of nowhere. But that’s not often the case. So instead, I tried walking around with him while brushing his teeth. I tried sitting in front of a mirror. Standing in front of a mirror. Singing while brushing. Letting him brush his teeth first, then me. And the other way around. Day by day we iterated. I looked at what works and what doesn’t. I tried to combine some parts. And finally, we have arrived at a teeth-brushing approach that works — for now. Let’s see for how long.

But the point here is that iteration is a very important skill to learn.

back to iteration

Iteration helped me the most with learning. This is why I think we should learn to iterate so that we can iterate to learn.

If you find something that works, great. If you find an answer, great. Then you have a base building block to build on top. Things might change and what worked before doesn’t work anymore. Iterate again.

Your understanding might change and things you understood before might seem confusing. Maybe new gaps and questions in your understanding appeared. Go back and iterate. Don’t ignore it.

You iterate. You muddle through. You learn.

How did you learn to iterate? Or how are you learning to iterate? If you have any interesting materials or insights on learning how to iterate post them in the comments below.

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