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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

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 September 18, 2020

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

Have you ever noticed that you tend to learn certain things simply by observing others? Learning in this way is called social learning, which is one of the 6 common types of learning. It helps you learn faster as knowledge and habits are acquired easily when they are practiced by people within a certain environment.

Throughout the centuries, humans have incorporated social learning in their lives as a major learning approach. The fact that human behavior is learned has made this possible. From initially being the only way to learn, it is now the fastest and most comprehensive learning method.

In this article, you’ll find out how you can make good use of social learning and observed behaviors to help you learn faster and easier.

The social learning theory as presented by Albert Bandura is simple. It suggests social learning is based on attention, retention, motivation and reproduction[1].

While these stages seem like common sense, there is a surprisingly large number of people who go through social interactions without learning anything because they aren’t actively practicing the different stages.

Let’s get started with the first stage, attention.

Attention

Since our mind has a limited capacity for storing data, it’s the things that we pay attention to that stay with us. Giving 100% of your attention to a situation you learn from is guaranteed to help you maximize social learning.

Stay in the Moment

When you’re focused on learning from your surroundings, your mind will focus only on what it wants to learn, so distractions fade away. However, it’s very normal to be in a situation where the information you are getting becomes monotonous or you get distracted for some other reason.

Make sure you are well-rested and energized so you can spend your energy learning things that matter to you[2].

social learning theory

    Be Mindful

    Mindfulness in its simplest terms is tuning into we’re experiencing in the present rather than thinking about something that could or did happen.

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    For social learning, you should be mindful only of the conversation or activity you want to learn from, filtering out other things that don’t matter to you as much at that moment. This way, your brain can make memories of what you are experiencing at that time only, which is the thing you want to learn.

    If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on deep breathing until the distractions fade away and you can bring your attention back to the learning opportunity at hand.

    For more tips on being mindful, check out this article.

    Don’t Multitask

    In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s normal, even expected, to be a multitasker. Being amongst people and checking emails on smartphones is now normal social behavior.

    However, when you want to maximize your social learning, don’t multitask. You should focus only on the interaction you want to learn from and block out all the rest.

    Don’t reach for your device, and don’t engage in multiple conversations simultaneously. In short, don’t have your mind and other senses deal with anything apart from learning.

    Engage Actively

    Similar to the above points, learning through social learning is fast and easy if you listen, speak, and observe actively.

    When you’re actively engaged, you respond to the situation by making relevant observations, mimicking important actions, and focusing on listening so you understand.

    To maximize the benefits of learning through social learning, be attentive to those who are around and looking to learn as well. A good example of this would be medical students on clinical rotations who are actively observing and listening to the doctor they are assigned to, and responding to his / her queries.

    Retention

    Paying attention is great for learning, but what about retaining the new information?

    Our brain has limited space to store data, so how do we ensure we remember things that are important to us?

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    These tips should help increase your retention power.

    Repeat to Remember

    Our brain starts developing from the moment we are born, absorbing things from people and experiences around us. It is learning constantly, and repeated experiences help reinforce the learning.

    A new experience opens up new neural pathways in our brain, and repetition of these experiences[3] strengthens the pathways, helping us retain the information better and for longer.

    Increase Brain Power

    You can improve retention by increasing your brain power: exercise regularly, sleep well, and stretch memory muscles by playing brain games.

    Here are more ways to help: How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

    Make Connections

    Connect a social learning opportunity with mnemonics. Use mental images, music, and anything else you want to retain and recall information.

    Link new information with old to reach new conclusions. You can use writing and speech for this.

    Remember That Less Is More

    When you are looking to retain knowledge through social learning, try taking in information in small quantities.

    Full day conferences, lectures that last for hours, and similar learning schedules do not have the desired effect. The human mind shuts down when it is faced with information overload, and the learning from these situations becomes minimal.

    Research shows that if you are looking to retain information from social learning opportunities, it’s a far better idea to put yourself in the situation more frequently for a shorter amount of time[4].

    Motivation

    The idea of a tangible reward or the emotional high that comes with the sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to keep doing a good thing, while the fear of repercussions or unpleasant outcomes is what keeps from doing something bad.

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    When a child observes that good behavior of a sibling results in them getting a treat, while bad behavior courts punishment, the child wanting a treat will be motivated toward good behavior by this social learning lesson.

    Motivation to learn new information and habits is a critical part of social learning. To stay motivated for social learning, you can try the following.

    Find a Role Model

    Finding a role model and basing your learning on them means you are motivated to duplicate the role model’s behavior.

    The medical students example fits well here again. The students will be motivated to observe and imitate better clinical skills and patient handling techniques by observing others around them and aspiring to be as good as they are.

    Make a Note

    Write down things that inspired you, and keep going back to them to stay motivated.

    Talk About It

    Talk to your role model or peers about what is motivating you in a shared social learning environment.

    An example of this is a person in rehab who is motivated to attend meetings by the presence of others who have managed to kick the addiction and are on the road to recovery.

    This is based on reinforcement or punishment. Positive motivation is reward-based motivation (satisfied patients) and negative motivation is punishment-based motivation (absolute dependence on drugs).

    Remember, no matter which type works for you, without motivation, there is no reason for us to do anything.

    Reproduction

    In the context of social learning, “reproduction” is not propagation of the learning, but the implementation of it.

    Reproducing learned information is the last stage of social learning. Once you pay attention to your surroundings and retain what you learned in the setting, you are then motivated to reproduce your learning so you can get the reward.

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    Bandura suggests direct reinforcement, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement as the different ways to reproduce knowledge gained through social learning[5].

    Direct Reinforcement

    This is when you act on knowledge, knowing the result will be positive, or avoid the act because the result would be unpleasant.

    To repeat the medical students’ example here, direct reinforcement would be one of them practicing patient handling techniques learned from their role model, with the expectation that the result would be a satisfied patient.

    Vicarious Reinforcement

    Vicarious reinforcement in social learning is the application of knowledge that has not been learned first-hand but is learned by observing the consequences of the actions of a third party.

    A good example of this type of reinforcement would be learning not to take drugs after seeing the condition of a drug addict.

    Self-Reinforcement

    Self-reinforcement is when a person decides to reward him / herself for good behavior, or bring about a negative consequence as a result of an undesired situation.

    Think of a student who has promised herself a scoop of ice cream if she gets an A on an exam she studied hard for, or decided to ask for extra coaching if she got anything below a C.

    The Bottom Line

    Albert Bandura presented the social learning theory in the 1970s, and it immediately gained popularity because of its simplicity, practicality, and immense potential for success. While the theory never went out of fashion, it is now experiencing a resurgence for all the right reasons.

    If you want to become a smarter learner, take advantage of learning experiences and the social learning theory to learn faster!

    More About Effective Learning

    Featured photo credit: Alexis Brown via unsplash.com

    Reference

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