When we’re children, we learn (and fail) all the time. We fall off bikes, scrape knees, add sums incorrectly, and tell someone we have a crush on them when they’re clearly not interested (*cringe*). That’s just what kids do.

As adults, we tend to move into areas of core competency, sigh a breath of relief (Hooray! No more feeling like I’m constantly failing at everything!), and then promptly stagnate. This, of course, is the quickest route towards the kind of career and life experiences that feel just kind of, well, “meh.” In order to keep yourself engaged and motivated, it’s important to continually form new and unexpected neural connections.

Fortunately, in the internet age, it’s not just easy to learn, but also to learn from other people, so you’ll have a model to go from and you won’t feel so alone in your endeavors. Here are 4 tips for doing just that.

1. Try a new healthy habit for 30 days

If you’re like most people, you set lofty, unachievable goals for improving your health. Maybe you decide you’re going to shed 40 pounds before Memorial Day, or maybe you’re all about that unachievable New Years’ resolution. The problem is, big goals are hard to maintain, and you’ll feel discouraged and overwhelmed when you don’t meet them, which will up your chances of quitting.

Instead, trying giving a 30-day project a try and blogging about your experience. The idea of 30-day projects is to focus on nurturing one (and only one) habit intensely for that time period, so you can really commit and try the new habit on for size. You could, for example, try eating local for 30 days, or not watch TV for 30 days. Who knows? Maybe some of those healthy habits will stick around.

Google “30-day project” and you’ll see a number of fellow bloggers with inspiring ideas. Even if you already have a few in mind, seeing what other people try can help you reach outside of your box and really challenge yourself. Even better: Invite your own friends to participate so you can learn from and support each other and swap stories about your experiences.

2. Learn about the world

Come on, be honest: how much global news do you really consume? Reading a summary site like The Week can be a great way to a get glimpse into the stories making headlines around the world, as can any number of news publications.

That said, the best way to really learn about the world is from its many people. Doing so doesn’t have to mean stuffing all of your possessions into a backpack and hitting the road (though that’s nice if you can do it, too!). Instead, make full use of the internet and social media. Read articles and add comments to travel blogs like Gadling. Narrow in on a region of interest, start doing your research on WikiTravel, and post questions on the Lonely Planet Travel Forums or even on Quora. Or, for a social network and travel blog site all in one, head to Matador Travel, where you can connect with people worldwide and learn about new communities while also doing a little teaching about your own region.

3. Learn how to be more entrepreneurial

From the corporate workspace to the home office, just about all of us can use entrepreneurial skills these days. After all, in a tough economy, bosses reward go-getters, and “innovator” is the buzzword of the day. But how can you learn these skills without enrolling in an MBA program or throwing your hat into a risky startup’s ring?

The best course of action is to find a thought leader within a niche that interests you and learn from them. Thankfully, with the popularity of corporate blogs and social media feeds, this is easier to do than ever. Let’s say, for example, that you love Stonyfield Yogurt—both the brand itself and its online presence. Just a browse through the corporate blog will tell you all you need to know, as long as you look closely. Want to learn how to draw readers more deeply into your site? Look at the “Recent Posts” sidebar. Want to tempt readers into reading your full post? Study the wording of the Stonyfield blog’s headlines, the kinds of photos they choose for the top of the post, and how they break up text throughout the page.

Even more helpful is when a brand commissions white papers and case studies and posts them online. Take a peek, for example, at Amazon’s Website Case Studies; an exhaustive look into just how real customers have benefited from Amazon’s products. Here, you’ll learn how to make the most of online tools that can help you launch or maintain your businesses or side projects from one of the most successful businesses around. If it worked for them, why shouldn’t it work for you?
When a thought leader provides insight into their business, grab it!

4. Learn how to make something new

Last but certainly not least, there’s much to be learned from the tinkerers of the world. Step entirely out of your everyday comfort zone by making something totally new. Learn how to hack your Ikea furniture. Turn everyday objects into a robotic arm. Follow lifestyle blogs, or just head to Pinterest for a little creative inspiration. With so many bloggers posting their experiments online and even how-tos, there’s no excuse not to give DIY a try!

Search for a Maker group to find even more in person support.

The Takeaway

So much of our everyday work lives rely on repetitive skills. Learning something new, no matter how seemingly minor, will refresh your brain and give you a sense of renewal and inspiration.
Make sure to check out the new daily articles on LifeHack for even more tips!

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Featured photo credit: Martial Arts Meditation Background via Shutterstock

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