Characteristics of Great Learners, Part 3: Hard Work and Overcoming Resistance

Great learners are willing to work hard to learn what they want to know, especially when it involves overcoming obstacles. Don’t get discouraged if you’re having trouble in a class; just keep at it, and your hard work will get you through.

When he was Church Commissioner of Education, President Henry B. Eyring identified five characteristics of great learners. Great learners, he said, welcome correction, keep commitments, work hard, expect resistance and then overcome it, and help other people (“A Child of God,” Brigham Young University Speeches 1997-98, 3-6). In this tip we will focus on the third and fourth characteristics.

"[Great learners] work hard. . . . When people quit working they quit learning, which is one of the hazards of getting too much recognition early in a career and taking it too seriously . . . . You will notice that the learners who can sustain that power to work hard over a lifetime generally don't do it for grades or to make tenure in a university or for prizes in the world. Something else drives them. For some it may be an innate curiosity to see how things work."

Commissioner Eyring pointed out that a performance orientation will not be enough to sustain hard work over a lifetime. Great learners have a mastery orientation, and they love learning, but they also anticipate challenges. The fourth characteristic of great learners focuses on how challenges are a natural part of learning and why we shouldn’t look for the easy way out when faced with them:

"The great learner expects resistance and overcomes it. . . . Some learning has been easy for you. But more often your enemy has been discouragement. You may try to avoid that by choosing to learn only what is easy for you, looking for the path of least resistance. But the great learner expects difficulty as part of learning and is determined to work through it."

While you’re here at BYU, don’t take just the easy classes. And don’t assume that because a subject is hard for you at first, you’re not good at it. Develop a growth mentality and stretch yourself!

In what ways do you work hard? How do you gain the desire to work, even when facing a difficult or less-appealing task?

This is the third part of a series on the characteristics of great learners. Read more tips in this series: Welcoming Correction, Keeping Commitments, and Helping Others.