Information is powerful. It is also cluttering and chaotic. Have you ever tried to start a new learning journey with a fresh perspective, free from previous knowledge and outside influences? Unfortunately, this seems to be a rare occurrence in our current landscape. Our educational experiences usually start with a Google search or an instructor and a textbook. While the guidance is helpful, does it potentially interfere with our natural learning process?

Do blank slates exist or do they need to be created through brute force? Contrary to popular belief, children are not born as blank slates. Research has shown that they develop biases at a young age from their parents and surroundings and that some biases are innate. For example, a child’s food preferences are thought to be shaped by their environment, but studies have found that they have a natural aversion to bitter tastes and a preference for sweet ones.

If children are born with predispositions, how can we ever hope to start anything with a truly blank slate? 

In this essay, we’ll explore the significance of a blank slate and provide practical tips for adopting a fresh perspective in your learning journey.

There are three key benefits to starting with a blank slate:

1. Personalization

Learning is a deeply personal experience, and the motivations behind it can vary greatly from person to person. A blank slate allows you to understand your true reasons for learning, whether it’s to acquire a new skill for work, transition to a new career, or simply keep your mind engaged.

Starting your learning journey with a blank slate helps personalize the experience and make it adaptive to your needs.  

2. Custom learning plan

With the abundance of online courses, YouTube tutorials, and other resources available, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd and follow what’s popular. But everyone has different learning preferences. 

A blank slate provides the opportunity to identify your preferred methods of learning and tailor your education plan to suit your needs.

3. Defining your “why”

Have you ever started learning something because everyone else was doing it, without having a clear purpose behind the decision? This often leads to a lack of engagement and motivation. By starting with a blank slate, you can reflect on your motivations and ask yourself why you want to learn, how you plan to learn, and how you will apply your knowledge.

A blank slate helps define a purpose, even if it’s leisure. Leisure is a better purpose than following a crowd. 

There are four simple ways to begin any learning journey with a blank slate:

1. Write it down

Take a piece of paper and write the word “WHY” at the top. Scribble down all of your reasons for learning, no matter how trivial they may seem. Circle the most meaningful reason and revisit this paper throughout your learning journey.

2. Make a learning mode list

Personalize your learning plan by listing and ranking your preferred methods of learning. For example, this is my ranked list:

  • Learn with peers or a community
  • Read books, blogs, or other written materials
  • Watch multimedia content to support reading

While this list seems rudimentary, it will help you sort and filter based on your preferences.

3. Track your progress

Learning without tracking is challenging. Tracking helps build momentum and course corrections. Here is how I track my learning:

For example, my wishlist is to learn the basics of a coding language in 6 weeks. 

  • Weekly learning goals 
  • Based on learning goals, the modes to prioritize per week. 

4. Reflect and course correct

Write notes about each week. I ask myself these questions to help course correct:

  • How did I feel this week?
  • Do I want to change learning modes next week?
  • What needs to improve and continue? 

As you keep moving through your learning journey, come back to the ‘WHY’. Remember that your purpose of learning might change and it is okay to embrace it. 

Unlearning Thought

To begin learning with a blank slate, do we need to unlearn the fear of the blank slate?