This Week's Character Strength Spotlight is on Love of Learning

WHAT DOES LOVE OF LEARNING MEAN?

You master new topics on your own or in school. Those with a love of learning are intrinsically motivated and engaged in a topic regardless of achieving an external standard. They enjoy learning simply for the sake of learning. They don’t need a prize or a high grade as a reward. Their reward is the process of doing the work and improving. People who love learning experience positive feelings in the process of acquiring skills, building on existing knowledge, or learning something completely new. Over time, individuals with this strength may develop deep and wide knowledge. Their knowledge enables them to make significant contributions to others’ understanding.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Developing a love of learning is highly beneficial for an individual. It means that they are intrinsically motivated to deepen their existing skills and abilities, or learn something
completely new. Since intrinsically motivated action is correlated with positive emotions, those who act on their love of learning may also have enhanced mental and physical health. Additionally, individuals who love learning have the desire and ability to overcome challenges, due to a sense of autonomy and control over their environment.

On a group level, love of learning is crucial. The best leaders have an insatiable desire to learn. It’s love of learning that compelled Benjamin Franklin to fly a kite and make significant advances in electricity. It’s love of learning that led Nelson Mandela to study Afrikaans (the language of his oppressors) and read a smuggled copy of Shakespeare, while locked in Robben Prison. And it’s only by learning and experimenting that we continue to grow. Individuals with this strength might be described as:

  • Studious
  • Knowledgeable
  •  Immersed
  • Interested
  • Engaged
  • Absorbed

Individuals with this strength are likely to think, feel, or behave in the following ways:

  • I love learning new things and broadening my knowledge.
  • I love diving deeply into the subjects in which I’m interested.
  • I know a lot about my subject area.
  • Working on my area(s) of expertise never feels like “work” to me.
  • I spend as much time in my area(s) of expertise as possible.
  • I care more about doing a good job than gaining recognition.‚Äč

QUOTES ON LEARNING

  • “For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” — NEIL deGRASSE TYSON
  • “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — DR. SUESS
  • “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — MAHATMA GANDHI


This week’s example is Dr. Barbara Oakley. Oakley is currently a professor at Oakland University and the author of numerous books. But, as she explains on her website, her love of learning goes beyond academics. “I love to bring fresh perspectives into my books by applying knowledge and experience from many different disciplines, as well as from ‘real world’ experiences. Although I’m now a professor of engineering, I’ve also worked in lots of different places and doing very different things: serving as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers up in the Bering Sea, teaching in China, going from US Army private to Regular Army Captain, and working as a radio operator at the South Pole Station in the Antarctic.”

See below for an overview of her book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science in which she describes “learning how to learn” by switching between focused and diffuse attention. The fact that she “flunked her way through high school math and science courses” makes this book (and her job as a professor of engineering) even more exceptional.

This Week's Prompt

Describe a situation where curiosity lead you to systematically learn a new skill?
Bonus prompt:
Choose a subject matter that you are curious about learning more; describe how learning will benefit you and the world around you (having a self-transcendent purpose).