Successful people have often developed the ability to learn anything.
You can do this! You have the innate ability to step out of your comfort zone and learn anything.
It’s been my experience that folks who aren’t interested in learning something new give the same excuses.
- They claim they have no free time.
- They suffer from a lack of inspiration.
One of my favorite quotes is from Leonardo da Vinci. He said:
“Learning never exhausts the mind.”
Your brain has a capacity for learning that never exceeds its limits! Isn’t that amazing?
Scientists have known that the brain continues to develop through our teenage years. But experts used to think that those changes stopped once the brain matured. Data now shows the brain continues to change throughout our lives. Cells grow and form connections with new cells. Some cells stop talking to others. And it’s not just nerve cells that shift and change as we learn. Other brain cells also get into the act.
Nathan Spreng is a neuroscientist at Cornell University. He wanted to know how the brain changes — how it morphs a little bit — as we learn. He scanned which regions of the brain turn on when people learn new tasks.
Areas that allow people to pay attention became most active as someone began a new task. But those attention areas became less active over time. Meanwhile, areas of the brain linked with daydreaming and mind-wandering became more active as people became more familiar with a task.
Spreng said: “As we learn something new, cells that send and receive information about the task become more and more efficient. It takes less effort for them to signal the next cell about what’s going on. In a sense, the neurons become wired together.”
Learning new information actually rewires your brain! That’s why it’s essential to keep learning new things. And that’s where the joy comes in – rewiring: getting rid of the bad and creating new connections.
What are some benefits of learning new things?
Learning helps us more easily and readily adapt to new situations. If you keep that “pay attention” area of your brain active, you’ll likely adjust to unique circumstances quickly. Someone who is expecting significant changes soon would benefit from learning something new.
Learning deepens our character and makes us more inspiring to those around us. You’ll become more interesting to your friends and family! Conversations will be fascinating and thought-provoking. Think of the way you’ll be an inspiration to them to keep on learning, too.
Learning exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. You may be surprised at what you’ll learn. No one has ever “arrived” and knows all there is to know. Being intrigued with new ideas might just help you exercise your ability to standing firm in what you believe, too.
Learning gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence. Isn’t it satisfying at any age to succeed? And when you keep learning anything new, the rewarding feeling of success will help you stand taller and feel proud.
You can do this! You can commit to a lifetime of learning!
The first step to learning anything
You must first decide what you want to learn! There are thousands of subjects, languages, sports, musical instruments, or skills to learn.
If you’re feeling stuck, start by making a list. Call it your bucket list of what you’d like to learn.
Look at what your friends are doing, what’s happening in your workplace. Get ideas from the entertainment you enjoy. Think of something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t know how and put that on your list, too.
Then go with the one that excites you the most and don’t overthink it!
(Side note: Jon Acuff has a terrific book called Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking. You may want to check it out!)
Step two: Decide the timeline
How much effort will you put into it? Decide what you are willing to do and put it on your calendar. It can be a commitment to learning in short bursts of 20-30 minutes, 2 or 3 days a week. Or you may be so passionate about the topic you want to devote 90 minutes a day, five days a week.
The good news is, it’s entirely up to you. However, I recommend you decide how much time and energy you’ll devote to the subject and commit to it.
Next: Become completely absorbed in the learning process
Are you tempted to multitask? The science shows multitasking simply doesn’t work.
When your brain tries to do multiple things (consciously), it usually fails at everything. If you’re going to learn something, you need to immerse yourself in the learning process. If you’re taking lessons, reading a book, or watching online videos, isolate yourself and focus only on that task.
Turn off notifications, and don’t let yourself get distracted. You’ll learn much faster and easier this way.
Fourth step: Talk to someone who’s already learned it
When you talk to someone who’s already been through the process, you may be surprised at their recommendations. They may offer suggestions for shortcuts or tips that could save you time and energy.
Step Five: Practice, Practice, Practice
Isn’t that what learning anything amounts to? Practicing until the muscle memory kicks in is what learning boils down to.
Practice and repetition are your best tools for learning. The more we do something, the more important it becomes, and the more entrenched it becomes in our memory.
Next: Set it aside and sleep on it
While repetition and practice are valuable, there may come a time when you get stuck and aren’t moving forward. There’s no shame in taking a break for a few days and coming back to it.
Take the time to reflect and reposition yourself with a new perspective to push on through.
I read a book by Seth Godin called The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick.)
The Dip is a temporary setback when you reach a point of dissatisfaction or disinterest with your learning. The Dip teaches that sometimes the more significant the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it. And you will get past it!
Finally, Step Seven: Teach what you’ve learned
Just like you sought someone who knew all the shortcuts and tips, give yourself to someone who is interested in learning the same thing!
When you teach someone a skill or a subject you’ve learned, it solidifies the process of learning. Teaching helps you organize your thoughts and focus on the fundamentals.
It’s a perfect test to see if you’ve truly internalized something … or if you’ve just been going through the motions of learning.
Now that you know the steps to learn anything…
There is a lot more to learning new things than just making the brain stronger. The act of learning actually makes us feel good! Check out these 4 Easy Keys To Successfully Learn New Things.