Three Simple Questions (3SQ)

When trying to learn a new task it’s always important to start with the basics. To really learn anything, it essentially comes down to 3 simple questions. What am I doing? What should I be doing? And if they’re different how do I go from Am to Should? Three simple questions, that’s all you really need. Now putting that into action is a little more complicated. Obviously there are some basic assumptions such as you actually want to learn something or you are actually capable of achieving the end result. But let’s break down each of the questions a little bit more.

What am I doing? The first question is potentially the hardest of the three questions for most people to really grasp. Most people think they know what they are doing, but they don’t always put things into context. Take someone thinking about starting a diet. They might know some random facts about things like “good carbs” and “bad carbs” or cholesterol, high fat, no fat, no sugar, etc. Yet how many of these people when they are starting out actually know the important things? How many of them know what a portion size is? Or maybe the correct ratios that they need for their specific body type? Maybe they know all of these things but they don’t know how to cook. Maybe they aren’t aware of how exercise or sleep or stress levels have an impact. Maybe they don’t know about the barriers they might have like snacking while watching television. A second issue is related to what we are doing is when we experience Illusory Superiority.  This is the idea that people tend to think they are better at things then they actually are. If we aren’t honest or accurate with what our skill level is or with what we are doing, it’s hard to actually make change. There are times when you are already where you need to be. So you are doing what you should be doing. But sometimes we just do things because that’s how we’ve always done them.

What should I be doing? For some people this is the easiest question to answer. If you want to learn to play sports you just look at the professional athletes and then you try to do what they do, simple right? To truly understand how to learn or master a task though tends to require a little deeper understanding of the role models that we seek. If we want to become some amazing athlete we might first need to understand that most professional athletes have certain physical attributes that could be actual limitations for us. Being 6 foot 6 inches tall makes it a little easier to dunk a basketball than being 5 foot. This isn’t to say that you can’t overcome certain limitations, it’s just there are certain reasons why people do certain things a certain way. To further understand what tasks or skills include, there are lots of people who look at things like deconstruction or quick tip manuals. There are other people that rush out to learn from the master’s whether it’s a class or a book or whatever. The way some people learn and the resources available aren’t always the same. Understand that sometimes what you think you need to do because someone told it to you might not actually be the thing to do. Learning to discern the right advice and knowledge for each specific task can take time, patience, trial and error. Yet having a clear example or blueprint is very helpful for the next question.

How do I get from AM to SHOULD? Once we’ve established what it is that we’re trying to do we essentially having created a point from here to there. The path to that journey depends somewhat on where here and there are. If you are already a pretty good cook, the learning to make a new dish might not be that complicated and could just take a decent recipe and a tutorial plus a couple of practice attempts before you have the dish mastered. On the other hand if you’ve never cooked a day in your life, learning to make a whole meal might seem very overwhelming. If you try to dive straight in you might find failure something you aren’t willing to deal with and it might make you think you will never be able to learn to cook. If on the other hand you start with baby steps, you learn to make a smaller less complicated dish and over time build up your knowledge and techniques, eventually you’ll be able to get to the same end point.

There are lots of great examples out here of people who have broken down tasks to help people get from here to there. There are also lots of people who have done it but have no idea how they got there. Learning how to correctly break down the path from where you are to where you want to get is essentially the main focus of creating a learning plan. For some of you this will hopefully make you appreciate the teachers in your life even more. Others might wish you could have thought of this or learned about things like this earlier in life. At the end of the day though, most things can be broken down into simple steps that when mastered create amazing results. Over the next few weeks I intend to share some of these stories and techniques with you.

If you ever have comments, feedback, or things you want to hear about let me know. I am imperfect and always looking to learn and discuss new things. Throughout this week I hope you’ll consider trying out the 3SQ model and let me know if you find out anything unexpected. After all we’re in this life together so as we’re trying to get from here to there, maybe we can help each other along the way.


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