Learning is never just about the stacks of textbooks and notes; it is about exploring the knowledge captured in-between sentences. With life moving online and the need to embrace technological change, the past two pandemic ridden years have taught us the importance of being learners.
However, learning is not just a temporary objective. As people grow older, so do their brains. The only way to slow this damage is by training the brain and body to continue learning and absorbing information.
Steps To Make Learning A Habit
- Apply Learnings
Reflecting and reviewing are vital to learning. It is important to understand information thoroughly and deeply when new information is presented. Unfortunately, reading information multiple times consecutively does not allow it to be etched in memory for the long term. However, reviewing work periodically, discussing it, and observing examples of it can help understand it clearly. Moreover, applying information and practising is vital during skill-based learning. For example, if someone has just learnt how to paint, only putting it into practice can help create something and effectively learn. The example proves that applying theory makes learning effective and enables it to have a considerable ‘shelf life’, creating lifelong learners in turn.
For example, the beloved Walt Disney taught himself how to draw through correspondence school and kept practising. He continued this practise throughout his life and eventually became the pioneer of animated cartoon films. He famously said, “I prefer to amuse people in the hope that they will learn, than to teach them in the hope that they will have fun,” in hopes of inspiring more learners.
2. Expand Range Of Medium
Bela Lugosi, a famous American-Hungarian, once said, “People, chained by monotony, afraid to think, clinging to certainties…they live like ants.” This quote is especially accurate when applied to learning. The more people try to learn from the same platforms, the more difficult it becomes to absorb information and enjoy it. Currently, the number of learning resources available has reached a record high due to the pandemic. Utilising this variety of resources can help keep learning interesting. Audiobooks, podcasts, YouTube, edX and Coursera are all different platforms that help facilitate learning in different ways without a time limit.
James Franco, award winning actor, is also an accomplished learner. After dropping out of UCLA to pursue acting, he re-enrolled and took special permission to take up 62 credits per quarter instead of 19. He completed his degree online and then proceeded to complete his Masters at Columbia via their MFA Distance Learning program. He also studied at NYU, Warren Wilson College and Brooklyn College while appearing in over 32 movies and short films and writing his books. James is currently studying for his Ph.D at Yale and truly living the life of a lifelong learner.
It is famously said that fitness programs should be embedded in daily life. Studies by Dr John J. Ratey of Harvard Medical School proved that exercise improves learning and its outcomes. Most importantly, exercise makes it easy to retain information. A school district in Chicago decided to implement this program and test the correlation between exercise and academic performance. A program was set up to have an hour of exercise daily to boost reading ability and overall skill set. A remarkable increase in wellness and academic performance was observed as a result.
Exercise is beneficial for students of all ages and of all forms. It reduces stress, anxiety, mental disorders and makes students have a better outlook towards learning, making them more likely to be lifelong learners who are open to challenges.
4. Make A Commitment
Earl Nightingale, the respected American author, said, “People will succeed because they know where they’re going.” Discipline, passion and focus are indispensable traits of a lifelong learner. No tips or tricks can help if a person isn’t committed to learning. Setting learning as a goal and promising to achieve it can be the only thing that gives enough of a push to consistently and dedicatedly increase knowledge. However, just making a mental note does not count and learning will not be effective if it is squeezed in between busy and chaotic schedules. Scheduling time to learn on a consistent or at least weekly basis helps in becoming a disciplined, driven and effective learner before it eventually becomes an enjoyable habit.
For example, Elon Musk grew up reading two books daily and his dedication led to him self-learning rocket design and engineering. To this day, he credits his accomplishments to his learning traits.
Bill Clinton once said, “The most important thing that I learned is that it is important to keep on learning,” at the Global Education and Skill Forum 2014. It is this statement that makes people continuously seek new avenues to improve themselves and their skills. Lifelong intellectual engagement is sought by many but obtained by few. Making sure that this desire turns into reality will be a challenge but with worthy and innumerable benefits.