Autodidactism is the ability to educate oneself without the guidance of a mentor or a structured institution. Anyone can be an autodidact at any point in his life as long as there is the burning desire to learn something new. It is not a remote process, because most of the learning would require the autodidact to seek information provided by someone else, although this might be in the form of written material or a copy found on websites.
Many of our nation's leaders have been autodidacts by their own right. They have spent their time learning something that they probably might not learn in a traditional setting. If a certain branch of knowledge interests you that much, how can you go about learning it?
- Identify your objective. Ask yourself if you really need to learn that particular subject. Will it be useful in your present life or beneficial in the near future? Would this interest sustain the drive to learn it on your own?
- Practice self-discipline. Have a time plan as to when you intend to have gained mastery of the subject. Determine when and where you intend to study the subject. Stick to your schedule or at least find a time and place to study without distractions.
- Be resourceful. Find resources and information on the skill you want to learn. It may be through a local library or through the Internet. Most often, hard copies are more authoritative than what can be found on the Internet. Ask people you know who have already mastered that skill to provide information as to the best source of data. You might need something with pictures that you can imitate.
- Utilize study skills. Reading is a skill that will prove valuable in self-teaching anything. The ability to browse, scan and skim through volumes of text for the information that you need is essential. Writing down what you know, either through diagrams or simply in the form of small notes, will drive the information into your subconscious better than just passing through it mentally.
- Appraise yourself. Evaluate how much you have learned for a certain period of time. You must assess how much information you can remember or apply without referring to your notes or resources. Measurement could be a written quiz or having your knowledge validated by professionals in that field.
To teach one's self has its advantages. There is no pressure from mentors to keep up with the class or to the institution's set standard, nor would there be any time schedule to follow, as you can learn at your own pace. However, it also has its consequences. One lacks the guidance and feedback of an adviser, the information has to be discovered via intuition or through serendipity, and you have no documented proof that you have indeed learned the standard skills necessary for a particular discipline.