I don’t know about you, but I’m always curious about the world, and always aware of how much I still have to learn.
The day I’m not curious about anything will be a day I personally don’t want to see, as I’ll either be a know it all and completely deluded or on my deathbed!
Yet in an increasingly connected world experiencing information overload and a certain amount of burnout from that, it’s become critically important – and I do mean critically, to curate your learning experience and limit the information highway to some specific side streets and cul-de-sacs of your choosing.
I wanted to talk through how I’ve been ‘easing’ back into learning zone post my Business Sabbatical and what steps I’m taking to expand past my comfort zone, increase my skills and knowledge and deepen my understanding and perceptions around areas I’m not often exposed to.
But first let’s focus on the benefits of learning something new and why you should want to do this in just 50 minutes a day.
I was reading a piece on Lifestyle Updated about the seven benefits of learning something new, and the very first one was fun.
I thought to myself how often do we, especially as adults, do something for fun. The example they gave for this benefit was a friend who’d recently learned to surf and how much fun they’d had.
I thought back to the 20+ surf lessons I took in Portugal last year and how I was constantly out of depth (no pun intended) and challenging my assumptions about what I was capable of, while learning something new every single time, if not several new things.
I quite enjoyed being a complete newbie to this sport and taking a mix of private and group lessons. I loved how our instructor, crazy Nelson as I like to call him, would draw diagrams in the sand and make models of waves in the sand to illustrate a point.
Along with this there was yelling and enthusiasm, practicing the technique on land and of course getting out in the ocean and doing it.
Full immersion so to speak – pun intended this time!
FUN! Why on earth learn something if it’s not fun?
Everything that’s taught can be fun, even accounting, especially when you’re shown real case studies and examples that resonate with you and make your learning that much quicker and effective.
Another on their list that is obvious but often overlooked is..
A sense of accomplishment and pride.
I know back in 2004 when I had landed my biggest job to date as National Brand Manager at Schwarzkopf Professional, working quite long hours but loving learning on the job at speed, I also took on more learning for the ‘fun’ of it.
It still amazes me that not only did I start training in January of that year for a bodysculpting competition, I then decided to enrol at Otago University for an extramural 1 year certificate in Fitness Management.
I was also going through Anthony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within book and working on some NLP for past events in my life, and listening to his CD series in the car on the way to work.
Once I’d finished with his CDs I recall listening to around 5 audiobooks (on CD of course) during my long-ish commute…back in the days when I actually commuted.
The results of this year were still my most impressive ever, at least in my mind.
I got straight As from University, and some A+ – proof that when you have experience in time management and a full time job you study much more effectively than when you’re doing it full time.
I won my Regional North Island Body Sculpting competition and went on to compete at Nationals.
And I had a rocking first year in my job running the best ever New Zealand Hairdressing Awards – most ticket sales and under budget.
And I felt immensely proud at what I was able to accomplish in just one year.
Naturally there were several things I had to give up in order to achieve that, like a life…no I’m kidding but I did literally eat chicken and brocolli all the time during my training and my boyfriend certainly didn’t get the time and attention he deserved during 2004.
So I’d hasten to add learning should be fun, give you a sense of achievement AND fit in with your lifestyle, not take over it. Much like my take on business supporting your lifestyle too.
So what else? Well Jon Lebreton from Sydney, Australia also shared 7 reasons why learning new things is important, what’s with the magic number of 7.
My favourites are, and I quote:
- You can grow as a person, develop your knowledge base and improve yourself for the better.
- Learning something new gets us access to new and different opportunities and the chance to try new experiences that might be the best ones you have ever tried
- You could potentially earn more money in your work life from learning a new and appropriate skill or by developing one that links to the work you do. You’ll rejuvenate your working life and get so much more from it.
- Developing a new skill will influence the way you do things day to day and they will make doing things quicker and easier, saving time, energy and stress.
While these are all obvious reasons, it’s worthwhile letting them sink in. Because at the end of the day scheduling in time to learn and the actual act of learning takes time and effort.
But the payoff can be phenomenal.
To cap off the benefits may I point you to a final article written by CCSU Continuing Education titles The Top 7 Benefits of Learning a New Skill – seriously again 7 reasons? I swear I didn’t search on that specifically on Google!
The 3 most important ones they stated in my opinion are, and I quote
Your brain chemistry changes.
The white matter in your brain is called myelin, and it helps improve performance on a number of tasks. The more people practice a new skill they are learning, the more dense the myelin in their brains becomes, which helps them learn even better.
Your learning speed increases.
Learning a new skill helps you learn things faster over time. By stimulating neurons in the brain, more neural pathways are formed and electrical impulses travel faster across them as you attempt to process new information. The more pathways that are formed, the faster impulses can travel.
You could stave off dementia.
People who learn a new skill are less likely to develop dementia, which has been linked to demyelination of your brain. People who actively learn new skills don’t give their brains a chance to demyelinate, and their neural pathways are ready for new impulses to travel along them.
Perhaps the most important reason of all though is this….
Learning something new will make you happier
‘It’s actually a core need for psychological wellbeing. Learning can help us build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy.
It can also be a way of connecting with others too,’ says Vanessa King, positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness. ‘As human beings, we have a natural desire to learn and progress. Psychologists call it mastery.’
There is evidence to suggest that adult learning seems to have its most positive impact on self-esteem and self-efficacy when the learning provided meets the needs of the learner, and when the learner is at a stage in their life when they are ready and receptive to benefit from it.
‘Learning also fuels our creativity. Ideas can come from making connections between seemingly unrelated things,’ says King.
‘Learning something new in one area of our lives can trigger ideas in another. So curiosity and creative thinking go hand-in-hand.’
This can also help with creating what psychologists call ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’ – when we’re so absorbed in what we’re doing, we lose sense of time and of ourselves.
‘It’s not passive, like when watching TV – it’s active,’ explains King. When we’re in flow, the level of challenge in the activity just exceeds our level of skill.
We’re also getting instant feedback from the activity on whether what we are trying is working, so we can adjust what we’re doing accordingly. As our skill increases, so does the challenge.
So there you have it, more than 7 reasons to learn something new. The reason I’ve researched into this, above and beyond my natural curiosity, is that it’s important to have a foundation of your why.
A strong why linked to learning on a daily basis will keep you motivated during times when you feel you can’t afford the time or energy to learn.
And in the next episode I’m going to be covering off on exactly that, the how of effective learning and hacking techniques to learn more in less time.
As well as the what. What on earth should you actually be learning?
Tune in on all good podcast platforms like Stitcher, iTunes and Anchor.
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