Are you looking for a way how to learn something new every day? People often think of learning as something that happens in a classroom with a teacher, tasks, and tests. This kind of instruction is just one way to learn something. In fact, we learn new things every day, often without even realizing it. For example, we learn the best way to store veggies, the fastest way to get to work, and the dog’s favourite toy to chew on. Cognitive scientist Pooja Agarwal, an assistant professor at the Berklee College of Music, says, “It’s really important to give ourselves credit for the huge amount of information we learn without realizing it.”
In a rapidly evolving world, the pursuit of knowledge has become more important than ever. Learning something new each day not only expands our horizons but also keeps our minds sharp and adaptable. Whether you’re a student, professional, or someone seeking personal growth, incorporating daily learning into your routine can be a game-changer. In this article, we’ll explore effective strategies and practical tips to help you embrace the joy of learning and make it a part of your everyday life.
There is a difference between memorizing things and learning them. Hadley Bergstrom, an associate professor of psychological science at Vassar College, says that learning is the long-term process of gaining knowledge or skills through experience. Memory is the ability to remember things. We can memorize words in a language’s vocabulary, but we learn how to say it.
Learning changes the brain. It strengthens the connections between neurons, which are nerve cells that send messages about everything from breathing to thinking. It also makes new connections between neurons. When we do something over and over again, like knitting or driving, these links get stronger, and we learn. Over time, it gets easier to remember these skills or memories.
As we get older and don’t have to go to school anymore, it’s important to keep learning new things. Studies have shown that learning later in life may help keep cognitive function, which is the ability to learn, reason, and manipulate information. Those who finished college had a better cognitive function in their 50s than those who did not. Bergstrom says, “I think you can say in general that learning new things over long periods of time is likely to improve cognition as you age.”
Even though learning has a lot of benefits, it can be scary to try to learn something new. How can you learn the most? What does it cost? What if I don’t do well? There are easy and free ways to help you learn in your everyday life, so you don’t have to go to school.
Embrace Curiosity: The Foundation of Daily Learning
Curiosity is the driving force behind continuous learning. It’s the spark that ignites our desire to explore and understand the world around us. By nurturing curiosity, you can create a fertile ground for learning. Here’s how:
- Ask questions: Never stop questioning the world. Curiosity thrives on asking “why” and “how.” Challenge yourself to inquire about topics that pique your interest.
- Follow your passions: Identify your passions and pursue knowledge in those areas. When you genuinely enjoy what you’re learning, the process becomes more engaging and fulfilling.
- Be open-minded: Approach new ideas and perspectives with an open mind. Embracing diverse viewpoints enables you to gain a broader understanding of the world.
Learning Doesn’t Need to Happen in an Organized Setting
Look for ways to learn in places other than classes and lecture halls. Even though learning can and does happen in these places, it can also happen anywhere, like when you read a Wikipedia page on your phone, watch a YouTube video on how to build a table, or read a book for beginning guitar players and follow along. Make sure to check out the people who made the tools you use. Does the author know a lot about what they’re writing about? Is the YouTuber trying to get people to pay for a class that will teach them how to make thousands of dollars by doing nothing? Many people online say they are experts, but you should check to see if they have the qualifications to back up their claims.
Wu says that by the time people are adults, they know how and where they learn best. Think about what you learned or what you did for fun in the past. Do you figure out things by making mistakes? Did you feel like you really knew something when you could explain it to someone else? You might like to learn at your own pace and practice a lot along the way. Agarwal says that you should think about what will get you more excited: learning on your own or with a teacher. Some people like to learn on their own and at their own pace, while others are more motivated when they are around other students.
Look to your family or people in your neighbourhood for low-cost and low-effort ways to learn. Your next-door friend might be an expert gardener, and you could teach them how to make dumplings in exchange. Allyson Mackey, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, says that if you don’t have time to take a clay class, you could learn while your kids are doing other things. Mackey says that going to places with different cultures is another way to learn outside of a classroom, even though it costs a lot more and takes a lot more time.
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Set Clear Learning Goals
To make daily learning a habit, it’s crucial to set clear goals. Setting specific objectives helps you stay focused and motivated. Consider the following:
- Define your interests: Reflect on the areas you wish to explore or develop expertise in. This could be related to your profession, hobbies, or personal growth.
- Break down your goals: Divide your overarching goals into smaller, achievable milestones. This approach makes your learning journey less overwhelming and more manageable.
- Create a schedule: Set aside dedicated time each day for learning. Consistency is key to forming a habit, so find a time that works best for you and stick to it.
Challenge Yourself All the Time
Mackey says that as you settle into a routine in life, “you’ve built this perfect brain for your environment and the kinds of tasks you do.” You are good at the jobs and hobbies you do every day and do them well. You have to be pushed to learn new skills or facts. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what you’re learning, but you should keep levelling up. Once you know how to play a song on the piano, for example, you might want to move on to another piece or work on more complicated chord progressions.
Because of this, experts often compare learning to going to the gym. “The most important thing about building muscle is that you don’t do the same thing every day,” says Bergstrom. Bergstrom says that instead of doing something repetitive, like crossword puzzles, it might be better to learn a new skill or hobby or make the one you already have more challenging. Every day is pretty much the same.”
Feedback is one way to make sure you’re making progress. A teacher can tell you how to say something better, and a helper can show you where you went wrong on a math problem. Wu says that even self-paced learning has built-in feedback: If you learn how to keep bees with the help of YouTube but don’t get any honey, you know something went wrong. Wu says, “Even if you tried and failed on your own, you would still get feedback. It’s just from the surroundings and a little slower than feedback from an instructor.” Wu says that struggle, mistakes, and “failure” are all important parts of the process of learning. These mistakes are good ways to learn from what you did wrong. In turn, you’ll get better at what you do next, and that’s learning. Wu says, “In general, you learn when you make a mistake and then change the way you act to deal with it.”
Capitalize on the Skills you Already Have
When you’re an adult, you have to use skills you’ve already learned. For example, if you’re teaching yourself a new language, you don’t have to relearn the ideas of words, sentences, and grammar like a child does when they say their first few words. “If you already know how to play the violin, playing the piano might be a little bit easier,” says Wu, “because you can translate from one instrument to the other.”
Because every job or hobby is different, you’ll make mistakes when your old skills don’t work well with your new ones. Again, if you know how to play the violin and try to use that information to learn how to play the piano, you might get confused and read two lines of music instead of one. Wu says that if you want to learn new skills, you should try to get out of your own head and be open.
Get the Information Out of your Head
Agarwal says that instead of trying to cram information in, you should focus on being able to talk about what you’ve learned. Recalling and thinking about information is called “retrieval practice,” and it can help you remember it. It’s recall practice to think about what you read in a book yesterday, tell a friend something funny you heard on a podcast, or talk about what you ate for breakfast. One simple way to use recall practice is to write down or tell your partner or roommate at the end of every day one thing you learned. Agarwal says, “That will help your memory and long-term learning, and it won’t take you more than 30 seconds and won’t cost you anything.”
Agarwal says that even if you think you didn’t learn anything that day, you probably did. For example, you might have learned how to get from your apartment to work without a GPS, where to find olive oil in the grocery store, or how to set up a projector.
Mackey says that another good way to learn is to teach someone else what you just learned. Putting linked ideas into a story that makes sense to you helps you remember them.
“Sometimes we try to fill our heads with information, like by watching videos or going to lectures,” says Agarwal. “Getting information out of our heads is where the magic happens when we learn.”
Diversify Your Learning Sources
Expanding your learning sources exposes you to different perspectives and enriches your understanding. Here’s how you can diversify your learning materials:
- Read books: Books are timeless sources of knowledge. Explore both fiction and non-fiction genres to broaden your horizons.
- Listen to podcasts: Podcasts offer a convenient way to learn while on the go. Find podcasts in your areas of interest and absorb new ideas during your commute or leisure time.
- Watch educational videos: Platforms like YouTube and educational websites provide a wealth of informative videos. Seek out educational channels and video series to enhance your understanding of various subjects.
Leverage Technology for Learning
In the digital age, technology has made learning more accessible and interactive. Take advantage of these tools to enhance your learning experience:
- Online courses: Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer a wide range of online courses. These courses provide structured learning opportunities and often include interactive elements.
- Educational apps: Explore educational apps that cater to different subjects and learning styles. Many apps offer gamified learning experiences, making the process enjoyable and engaging.
- Online communities: Join online forums and communities related to your areas of interest. Engaging with like-minded individuals can provide valuable insights, discussions, and networking opportunities.
Practice Active Learning
Active learning involves engaging with the material actively rather than passively consuming it. This approach promotes deeper understanding and retention. Here are some active learning techniques to incorporate:
- Take notes: Summarize key points and concepts in your own words. Writing down information helps reinforce your understanding.
- Teach someone else: Explaining a concept to others is an excellent way to solidify your knowledge. Share what you’ve learned with a friend, colleague, or family member.
- Apply knowledge: Find opportunities to apply what you’ve learned in real-life situations. This practical application helps you connect theory with practice and reinforces your understanding.
Embrace Failure and Persistence
Learning new things can be challenging, and setbacks are inevitable. Embrace failures as opportunities for growth and keep pushing forward. Remember these essential points:
- Embrace the learning process: Learning is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the ups and downs and view challenges as stepping stones toward mastery.
- Learn from mistakes: Analyze your mistakes, extract lessons from them, and adjust your learning strategies accordingly. Failure is an opportunity to improve and refine your approach.
- Stay persistent: Building a habit of daily learning requires persistence. Even on days when motivation wanes, remind yourself of the long-term benefits and push through the resistance.
Learning something new every day is a powerful way to expand your horizons, foster personal growth, and adapt to an ever-changing world. By cultivating curiosity, setting clear goals, diversifying your learning sources, leveraging technology, practising active learning, and embracing failure, you can make daily learning an integral part of your life. Embrace the joy of discovery, and unlock a world of possibilities through continuous learning.
Remember, the journey of learning is as important as the destination. So, start today, explore new subjects, and let the quest for knowledge enrich your life in ways you never imagined.