You’re Not Dumb. You’re Just Not Interested; A Lesson From Understanding Human Nature by Alfred Adler psychology expert

Ever since we are born, we’re constantly learning

Our parents bring us into this world, teach us the basic manners, and hopefully, discipline us enough so that we go into the world and pave our own path effectively interacting with other humans.

As we grow older, we start attending school, at which point we are constantly learning a wide variety of subjects, from learning to draw and paint to how to use letters in mathematical equations.

It’s a long and painful process.

It’s during this time when we start getting to know ourselves, paying attention to our weaknesses and strengths, which is reflected in how fast or slowly we learn a subject.

Personally, I’ve always had an inclination to be better at Math and Physics than at History or Literature. And of course, other people performed in reverse; they were better at History and Literature than at Math and Physics.

In fact, many times I zoned out and couldn’t pay attention to Literature classes. I was usually day dreaming.

But why? How were others that much better at History than I was? Did that mean that I was dumb? Did that mean that I couldn’t learn?

This is something I recently started thinking about, based on a book I’ve been reading called Understanding Human Nature by Psychotherapist Alfred Adler (1870-1937), the founder of Individual Psychology.

In this book, Adler explains that we humans don’t pay attention, or lack focus, for the following reasons:

  • Sickness or tiredness
  • No interest in the subject (attention stems from interest)
  • Irrelevancy of the subject to our lifestyle
  • Opposition to a certain subject

Now, this may not seem that significant, but it’s actually mind-blowing because it may explain why we humans have a hard time learning certain subjects.

And that’s because we all know that in order to actually learn something, in order to spend the time understanding and making sense of it, we have to be paying attention.

If we do not pay attention, and immerse ourselves in the subject to be learned, then we won’t learn.

Now, another important correlation that Adler explains is how attention stems from interest. If we are not interested in something, then our minds will wander off into the abyss, and start thinking about other things that actually do interest us.

As such, it’s safe to say that in order to spend the time learning, understanding and making sense of a subject, we have to be paying attention, and therefore, we have to have some interest in it.

There has to be something in if for us.

As Adler explains, if the subject is irrelevant to our lives, we see no benefit, or we are opposed to the subject, and we have no interest, then our attention will is up for grabs and ready to anchor onto something else that “has something in it for us.”

That something will peek our interest, grab our attention, which will make us want to spend a certain amount of time making sense of and understanding it.

This helps understand my time in school, doing badly on the subjects I didn’t care much about (History and Literature). Thinking back now with this new knowledge, I wasn’t that good at them because I saw no benefit, or relevancy to my life, other than a grade.

I saw no benefit, no relevancy, I had no interest, and my attention focused on other things. Thus, I didn’t spend more time than I needed to in order to pass (which was the opposite for classes I did enjoy. I had no problem spending time on them)

So think about your situation now and subjects you weren’t that great at in the past.

Are you dumb because you couldn’t learn them well? Based on Alfred Adler’s explanation: you’re not dumb, you’re just not interested.

You may suck at one subject, but will be great in another.

The key is to be aware of what interests you, which will drive your attention, and your ability to focus and learn.

Remember this next time you are beating yourself down.

There is this quote from Albert Einstein (I hope he said it):

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

What do you think about this? Let me know