a different person - how we learn

You will be a different person after reading this post

A different person

A bit of a grand claim I know, but it is true. After reading this, you will be a different person. But, there is a trick. Even if you didn’t read this, you would still be a different person. Imagine the person you were 10 years ago or 15 years ago.

Would you say you have changed?

What about in the next 10 or 15 years?

What about 50 years?

Do you imagine you would look the same? Would you have the same opinions, ideas, interests? What is it that makes you, you? Maybe it is your actual physical body? What happens if you lose an arm in an accident? Or get a heart transplant? Maybe we are our memories. But, I know from personal experience that my memory is not as good as I think it is. With every retelling of a story, there are subtle differences and I end up remembering that version of the story as if that was the way it really happened.



You’re how old??

The fact is that we are changing constantly. Our cells are constantly dying and new ones are being made to replace those that have died. The new ones are not always the same as the old ones. Why do you think we age at all? Over the course of 8 years, pretty much every cell in your body has been replaced. So, think back 8 years.

Every single cell from the ‘you’ back then has been replaced and you are made up of entirely different stuff as you are reading this. Right now, around one million of your cells are dying a second! In a day, about 1.2kg of cells will be replaced. But look on the plus side! We are always brand new! Well… at least less than 8 years old, anyway. And, we can change and grow!


How we learn


There’s a concept in psychology called neuroplasticity. This is something our brain does when we learn something new. It could be a fact or a skill, or a way of thinking. Imagine you are learning to catch a ball. Your eyes see the ball coming towards you.

Using the view from the left eye and comparing it with the view of the right eye and comparing the size of the image of the ball to the size you expect the ball to be once it has reached you, you estimate how far it is away from you. As the trajectory of the ball changes, you make a prediction of where the ball will land and in what direction. The cone and rod cells in the retina at the back of your eye pick up the light reflected off of the ball as well as light from everything else and the sky and so on. These photo-receptive (light-sensitive) cells can be labelled the receptor.

The receptors send this information as electrical signals down a sensory neuron to the brain. Eventually, the information lands in your visual cortex in which it is processed and you have an image of the world. Once we have this image of the world, more information is sent down motor neurons to muscles all over the body which enable you to position yourself, bend your arms, and open your hands ready to catch the ball.

Catching the ball

As you feel it land in your hands, you quickly move your hands and arms in the direction the ball was moving in order to decelerate it to a stop safely in your hands and not allow it to bounce out of your hands. Quite impressive isn’t it? Were you able to do all of this when you first ever tried to catch a ball? I doubt it. It takes practice. With each failed attempt the neurons which did the job successfully literally grow in number and size. The ones which did not help to do that particular job start to die out. You become better at the thing you are trying to do by continuing to try.






Growth mindset vs Fixed mindset

As you are reading this post, the same thing is happening. You are now a different person. Change does not happen all of a sudden. It is gradual and requires patience. Impatience slows the process down because you are not giving the task your full attention. Part of your attention is on the ramifications of not getting the job done within a certain time frame. So, next time you are struggling with a question or a topic, just keep trying but don’t rush it. Breathe. Relax. Let it take as long as it takes.


Some people think they are a certain way, have always been, and will always be. This is called having a fixed mindset. Others believe that they are a certain way at the moment, but can and will change. They believe they have a certain amount of power in deciding on the ways in which they might change. This is called having a growth mindset. Which one sounds like more fun?


For related watching, try the following Youtube videos:


My next few posts will be covering the Science topic of electricity. They will probably be over the course of three posts. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!



A bit about the author, Paul H:

Paul is a qualified and experienced Physics, Maths, and Science teacher, now working as a full-time tutor, providing online tuition using a variety of hi-tech resources to provide engaging and interesting lessons.  He covers Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Science from Prep and Key Stage 3 through to GCSE and IGCSE, plus teaches Physics, Maths, and Chemistry to A-Level across all the major Exam Boards.

You can enquire about tutoring with Paul here

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