Before they can even speak, babies learn to point. Without the words they are already asking questions of the world around them, forever learning. College-bound adults spend at least the first twenty-two years of their lives learning. Then they search for a job and their quest for knowledge is over? What an odd notion.
The first step to becoming an effective and lifelong learner is to maintain your childlike curiosity. Explore! Get energized by new ideas! This curiosity will challenge your negative associations with learning, such as the believe that you’re bad at math or too old to change careers. You will discover that habitual learning is both rewarding and fulfilling.
Benefits of Lifelong Learning
There are countless surprising benefits to learning throughout adulthood. For one, you’ll earn more. Many people today are learning second skills, either related to their current line of work or in a completely different field. This gives them the ability to remain adaptable and competitive in today’s job market, especially in the event of an economic decline.
Learning throughout your life keeps your brain active and engaged, lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s. If that’s not enough to motivate you, learning could extend your life. People who read books for more than 3.5 hours a week are 23 percent less likely to die over a 12-year period. By making learning a habit, you can reap these benefits.
4 Tips to Make Lifelong Learning a Habit
1. Schedule a time to learn.
Set aside a time each day to learn. Our brains can only build so many neurons each day, so regular practice is the key to successful learning. Just 15 minutes can make a difference. Eliminate distractions and turn off your cell phone during this time. Break your chosen subject into easy-to-digest steps and learn one small step each night. Take the process slowly and regularly take the time to review previously learned material. We build and maintain connections in our long-term memory over time.
2. Focus for short periods of time and take a break.
In order to effectively absorb information, our brains need intense periods of focus that are immediately followed by a break, during which we let our minds wander. Our brains actually absorb more when we give them a period to rest and absorb information. A popular technique for this method of learning is called the Pomodoro Method. The Pomodoro Method recommends 25-minute bursts of focus followed by five-minute breaks. If you’re new to this concept, it’s best to start with ten minutes and build up to twenty-five as you increase your concentration.
Pro Tip: Experiment with different levels of background noise. Quiet promotes a deeper focus, while minor background noise (such as you’d find a coffee shop) encourages creativity. Lyrical or irritating music can prove to be a distraction.
3. Be mindful of the company you keep.
Surround yourself with others who share the goal of becoming lifelong learners or are already successfully practicing these habits themselves. Spending time with people who share your goals will motivate you and their enthusiasm will be contagious. They will encourage you to explore your interest and continue to learn and grow. Attend lectures in your chosen field of study to meet people who are not only avid learners, but share similar interests.
4. Adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy habits have a domino effect: one good choice leads to another. Eating right, exercising, and cutting out unhealthy habits that drain our brain power -- such as binge watching television -- will put you on the path to a lifetime of learning. Here are a few habits you can pick up that will amplify your learning efforts:
Exercise regularly. Believe it or not, one of the easiest ways to supercharge your learning is to exercise. Walking for just 15 minutes a day is enough to reap the benefits. Physical activity can actually help us grow new brain cells and neurotransmitters. Exercise also improves long-term memory and reverse age-related declines in brain function.
- Practice selective Internet consumption. The Internet can be a wonderful resource for lifelong learners, but it can also lead to distractions. We habitually visit the same sites over and over again. Make sure you read content from a wide range of sources and use it as a tool to expose yourself to a variety of viewpoints. Shake up your online information consumption by making regular trips to the library and scanning books and periodicals.
Try new things, often. Make a habit of stepping out of your comfort zone and try new things. By saying yes to new experiences you expose yourself to new points of interest and subjects to learn. Being more adventurous, even if it’s going to a concert you wouldn’t normally attend, broadens your view of the world.
For more learning tips and educational resources and insight, visit TeachNest at teachnest.com/blogs/news.