The Emotional Side of Learning Data Science

In my 15 years of teaching advanced technical topics to adult learners, the biggest impedance to learning is an emotional mindset. I know this from teaching at several Universities as well as from getting my BS and MS from MIT in Electrical Engineering and then going on to get my MS and Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon in Computer Science.

Currently, as a Professor and a practicing Data Scientist, I understand both internally and observationally how emotions can negatively and positively affect the learning process. Let’s take a look at some of these emotional barriers.

The two most common barriers that I have seen are:

Emotional feeling (e.g. fear, doubtful, worry, etc.), and
Internal conversations (e.g. This topic is hard, I’m not good with technology, etc.)
Each one of these emotional or internal practices slows the learning process and are self-induced. Fortunately, these impedances can be overcome quite easily. It all boils down to perspective. Two people can be in the same situation dealing with the same set of circumstances and have different feelings and internal conversations.

Just saying to yourself, “I am getting better at this” instead of “I don’t know what I am doing” can have a profound impact on your performance. The internal conversation or feelings only have one source and that is you. So you can actually decide what to say or feel about any situation you. You are in control.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.”

- Henry Ford

The same is true for emotions.

“The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity Kitai. Do not misunderstand me, the danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”

- Will Smith in After Earth

So the next time you are feeling an unsupportive emotion or telling yourself a negative story than simply make a more powerful choice. Can this be easily done maybe or maybe not, it is all about choices, give it a try and see how it works.

What do you think? Are your emotion and internal conversations controlled by you?