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How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

I am in love with lifelong learning. It was not always that way, however.

To be perfectly honest, I used to think that the only way to learn was in school. And I was not always a big fan of “conventional learning”, unless it was a course that really interested me.

It was not until I expanded my own definition of learning that the love affair began. The retreats, the books, the conferences, and even my own missteps. All a means for learning.

Now I cannot learn enough or get my hands on enough information. Lifelong learning is like a potato chip to me; I want more. As a matter of fact, as of the writing of this article, I have about 12 different books going at the same time.

Why?

Simple. It sparks my curiosity and the curiosity sparks my quest to be a lifelong learner.

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” ― Samuel Johnson

The more I engage and employ lifelong learning, the more I experience some really cool things. Not only lifelong learning improved my brain functions (like my memory), but it has supported my success and personal growth as a business owner and made me a more effective coach.

Not to mention, as an introvert, it gives me a lot of material to work with in social settings, which is a great side benefit.

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The bottom line: lifelong learning has been truly instrumental in adding new tools and knowledge to my metaphorical toolbox.

The Importance of Lifelong Learning

If you think about it, the brain, while mostly grey matter has muscle. Like any muscle or skill, the less you use it the more chance for it to atrophy. But keeping your brain strong is not the only benefit.

In the article Benefits of Lifelong Learning, Marjaan Laal states that lifelong learning sharpens the mind, increases confidence, enhances interpersonal skills, expands career opportunities and impacts the ability to effectively communicate.[1]

How is that so?

When we learn, we expand our knowledge base obviously but it goes much farther than that. Learning can help us to step out of a pattern or routine. The more we do that, the more confidence we create.

It moves us past that point of complacency. It in turn enhances and improves the skills we already have by helping us to not only strengthen them, but also add to them.

It is also beneficial to our health. While it may not cure diseases like Alzheimer’s, for example, it has been reported that learning can slow the progression of diseases that impact the brain.

John Coleman stated in his article Lifelong Learning is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet and Your Social Life that even reading for a short period everyday can reduce stress levels.[2] With all the demands we face on a daily basis, who does not want a little stress relief?

If you are ready to reap the many benefits of lifelong learning be sure to read on.

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Train Your Brain to Crave Learning

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The more we do something and notice the benefits of doing that something, the more apt we are to do it again and again. Enter a habit. Training our brains to crave learning is no different.

Here are some simple ways to begin to train your brain to crave lifelong learning:

1. Create an Objective for Your Learning

That may sound funny, but it truly does help to have an objective in mind.

For example, maybe your objective is to reduce your stress levels or find different ways to relax.

Having an objective not only makes the learning beneficial but gives it a purpose.

2. Start Small

If lifelong learning has not been your “thing”, trying to eat this learning elephant in one bite makes it more difficult to stick with. It helps to break down the learning into bite sized pieces.

For example, instead of trying to read a certain number of pages in a book every day, why not start with 15 minutes, two or three times a week?

After you have cemented that small habit into place, you can then add to it.

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3. Make it Fun.

If learning is a chore or becomes a chore, the act of doing it obviously decreases. Have some fun with your learning.

For example, for every new learning opportunity you take, give yourself some “props”. Give yourself a gold star. Make learning a game.

Whatever is going to make learning fun for you, make sure to engage the fun!

How to Cultivate the Habit of Lifelong Learning

If you don’t know how to begin lifelong learning, here’re some ideas for you:

1. Stick Your Nose in a Book

The most obvious way to continue learning is to read often and read a variety of books. Benefits of reading are many. Here you can find great books to read:

2. Engage in Deeper Thoughts and Conversations

Nothing shakes up the routine of the day-to-day surface level stuff than a deep conversation or deep thinking.

If you find that you do not have folks in your world that you can have those deeper conversations with, not to worry. Facebook , LinkedIn , and MeetUp are loaded with all sorts of groups engaging in some pretty cool conversations around topics of interest.

3. Check out Some Cool Podcasts and Videos

In your hot, little hand you hold a magical tool for learning. Education is open online in this era.

If you have not downloaded the YouTube or the TED app, give them a whirl. Some nice TED talks and podcast recommendations for you:

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4. Enroll in Some Extra Curricular Classes

Community colleges offer adult learning programs and classes for professional development with a cheap price.

If attending classes in a brick’s and mortar school is not your thing, no worries. Online courses are always available via sites like Udemy and many more:

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

5. Leverage Your Missteps and Mistakes

Missteps and mistakes are great learning tools. Rather than judge yourself or use your missteps and mistakes as a 2×4 to beat yourself up with, take them as an opportunity to learn.

One thing that I find helpful is to take my missteps and mistakes and journal about them. To get the learning rolling I begin with a question like, “What am I meant to learn from this?” and then I let me pen just go. No overthinking or editing, just top of the mind writing.

If these ideas do not do it for you or you want more, be sure to check out Scott Young’s article right here on Lifehack:

15 Steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning

Conclusion

The keys to benefiting from lifelong learning are to:

  1. Set your objective for learning. When there is a purpose behind the learning, the learning becomes more compelling.
  2. Start small, in bite-sized pieces.
  3. Make learning new skills fun. Choosing the topics that most interest you and the way in which you want to learn that best suits you.

Following these simple steps and you will have your brain craving lifelong learning in no time!

More About Lifelong Learning

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Pam Thomas

Chief Change Officer @What's Within U; Helping people dig out from the ruts that keep them stuck personally and professionally.

How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques How to Talk to Strangers When You Feel Crippled With Social Anxiety Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

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Last Updated on November 6, 2020

How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

How Motor Learning Can Help You Learn Effectively

Practice makes perfect. It’s a cliché saying that gets pulled out time and time again. For many, they loath to hear it, but that saying has some truth to it. After all, this saying pops up the most when we are in the midst of motor learning.

While this saying is off, as perfection is impossible, the practice side of it is the only way for us to get closer to that level. And the only way a motor skill can get to that level is through motor learning. It’s through this concept where we can grow the various skills in our lives, but also to learn effectively by learning the right way.

What Is Motor Learning?

To present an example, it’s best to explain what the theory of motor learning is. For starters, it’s been described as such:[1]

“A set of internal processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for skilled behavior.”

Our brain responds to sensory information to either practice or experience a certain skill that allows for growth of a motor task or the ability to produce a new motor skill. This happens because our central nervous system changes to allow this to happen in the first place.To see this at work, consider one of the first skills we learned as a human being: walking. While some think toddlers get up and start trying to walk, there are many complex processes at work.

The reason people started to learn to walk was because of motor learning.

At the base stage, we started to walk because months before even trying to take our first steps, we saw how important it was. We witnessed several people walking and understood how helpful it is to walk on two feet.

The 3 Stages of Motor Learning

There is more to motor learning than you might think. Over the years, the learning community has uncovered that there are three stages of motor learning:

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  • Cognitive
  • Associative
  • Autonomous

Each stage has its own requirements for further development and what each stage brings to the learning experience[2].

Motor learning for performance

    Cognitive Stage

    This base stage is where a lot of learning and context happens. At this stage, we’re not overly concerned about how to actually do the skill properly. Instead, we’re more concerned about why we should bother learning the skill.

    Once we’ve got a grasp of that, this stage also starts the trial and error process. You can call it practice, but at this stage, the idea is to at least try it out rather than nail it.

    This is also the stage where we are heavily reliant on guidance. We can have a coach or a teacher there, and their role is to provide a good learning environment. This means removing distractions and using visuals, as well as encouraging those trials and errors to guide the learning process.

    One example of this goes back to the walking example, but other instances are things like driving a car or riding a bike. Even when we are older, you can see this form of learning working.

    Associative Stage

    The second stage is where we’ve got some practice under our belt, and we have a good grasp of general concepts. We know what to do in order to perform this particular skill. The only problem is that we might not be able to do that skill all that well when compared to others.

    Indeed, we know what to do, but not “how to do it well.” It’s at this stage where the saying “Practice makes perfect” rings true. The more that we practice, the more we can refine and tighten the loose ends of that skill.

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    An example of this motor learning at work is seen in sports. Generally speaking, people can perform better the more that they practice. That’s because the more we practice something, the more we understand what input does to our bodies as well as where our current limits lie.

    Autonomous Stage

    At this stage, everything is more or less automatic and will stick in the long term. We can still improve, but you don’t need to tell yourself to go and do a certain task or assignment constantly. Your body has become adjusted to the idea of doing this.

    .

    An example of this learning is the skills that you use at work. When you get to work, you need very little persuasion to actually do your work. Whether that’s writing, lifting, operating a machine, or performing, there are a set of skills that we don’t think about and merely do.

    The Principles of Motor Learning

    The principles of motor learning are few and far between. Generally speaking, there is a consensus that the key to production of a new motor skill isn’t so much on the amount of time spent practicing, but the way that we practice.

    This idea was brought up in a 2016 study published on Science Alert, where scientists uncovered that making changes in your training can enhance your learning experience.[3]

    With this in mind, the core principles focus on the methodology of learning. Not only that, but ensuring they follow through the stages that I mentioned above, which are simple in concept.

    The core principle of this learning is to reinforce a skill so much that our execution of that skill is nothing but mindless consistency.

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    The study that I brought up is a new addition to that principle, as we now know that making alterations during our practice can cause new aspects of learning to grow and enrich our learning and mastery of a skill.

    How to Use Motor Learning Theory For Effective Learning

    The theory as we know it is to practice movement patterns until they become second nature and to experiment and make small changes in order to improve performance of a skill.

    How does all of that help with us being better at something? That study found something called memory reconsolidation.[4] One of the senior study author’s, Pablo A. Celnik, M.D. stated that:

    “What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”

    Motor learning through memory reconsolidation

      Celnik also stressed why this is such a big deal:

      “Our results are important because little was known before about how reconsolidation works in relation to motor skill development. This shows how simple manipulations during training can lead to more rapid and larger motor skill gains because of reconsolidation.”

      In other words, by using memory reconsolidation, we can learn faster and ultimately gain the ability to perform a skill faster than by practicing something for several hours without making changes[5].

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      Why does this variation enhance practice? Because the act of recalling our memories isn’t a passive process.[6]

      Whether you are learning a new skill or recalling an event, the sheer act of recalling changes the memory itself. In essence, our memories become highly unreliable as we focus and subtly alter those memories in light of recent events.

      This is because our brain is more interested in the most useful version of the world and disregards useless details.

      Bottom Line

      In order to incorporate motor learning into your life, it’s a matter of mixing up your practice session slightly. Whatever skill it is you are trying to do, urge yourself to make subtle changes to how you perform.

      If you’re writing, try applying a new word you never used previously that you picked up.

      Are you practicing an instrument or playing a sport? Try to use a different muscle or a new movement to achieve the same sound. This can be something as simple as posture or body position.

      The idea with motor learning is to keep practicing, even if you are at the stage where your movements are automatic. This variation can very well bring you to the next level of that skill.

      More About Learning Faster

      Featured photo credit: Jordan Whitfield via unsplash.com

      Reference

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