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Published on November 12, 2019

How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

Contrary to popular belief, learning is a necessary part of our existence. Much like we need food for our body, our brain needs nourishment through information and continuous learning.

To live a life without learning constantly is utterly unthinkable despite people’s efforts. It’s this reason I’d like to argue that we need to stop resisting and to embrace learning for specific reasons. On top of that, I’ll explain the step by step process to train your brain to help you become a continuous learner.

Why Is Continuous Learning Important?

To quote Heraclitus:

“The only thing that is constant is change.”

All around us, change happens. We change careers, our personal lives, our community or business. Even if those changes are minor, they are still changes nonetheless.

But one thing we might not realize is that one of the most effective ways for us to handle change is through learning.

How is that possible?

Learning Keeps Us Relevant

The biggest reason is relevancy: both individually and in group dynamics.

Talent LMS raised some solid points for continuous learning, particularly for individuals and groups.[1] First off, this form of learning will allow the increase in knowledge and competency in our career and overall skills.

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For example, watching someone work can make us a better worker. It might also embolden us to explore alternatives or try new things as well.

But we really start to see continuous learning shine in group dynamics. These days, we all work in teams in some capacity. Not only do we need to get along with others but, what we are learning also changes the team to a degree.

Talent LMS explains that this learning will keep us up to speed with the changing environment in our industry. This is key because as a team, it’s crucial that a team is all on the same page and to work effectively. Part of that effectiveness also hinges on people’s ability to both change and learn.

Learning Prepares Us for the Unexpected

The future is unpredictable but continuous learning can help us with unexpected changes. By staying ahead of our learning, we are better equipped for drastic changes.

For example, we can learn about the general workforce and how the application process works to better prepare us for job searching. This can help if for some reason you lose your job and need to find other work.

Learning Boosts Your Profile

If you’re always learning, you are always improving. Best of all, you can put those skills into your own portfolio or resume. You can showcase these skills in various ways and in certain situations, you can get people to endorse those skills.

Learning Builds Confidence

A lot of us place our confidence in our own skills and abilities. When we turn something down, it can be for various reasons. However, those reasons can just be that we lack the chops necessary to fulfil what’s being asked.

You don’t run into that issue if you are developing continuous learning. You feel accomplished when learning new things and it improves how you view your skills.

Learning Will Change Perspectives

The final reason continuous learning is so important is the fact that it opens your mind. Having an open mind and willingness to take on new perspectives can do wonders for you.

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First of all, it builds your attitude to change. Being excited about change can affect others around you in a positive way compared to dragging your feet and resisting.

Secondly, when you take continuous learning into account, you can begin to understand how other people feel about a particular issue.

Knowing one side of an argument is okay. Knowing both sides is a lot better though. It allows you to not only understand a situation better but you can also help in a more effective manner.

How Do You Develop Continuous Learning?

Continuous learning may be simple on paper but there is more to it than consuming information. When looking at top industry leaders, they’re behaving in a specific manner.

Anderspink.com outlined some specific traits that individuals used that made them continuous learners.[2] They portrayed the following:

  • Always learning something new and sought out more
  • Had knowledge on various topics that weren’t always related to current roles
  • Were always looking for new experiences and doing different things
  • Knew about the latest trends and technologies in the industry
  • Maintain strong networks with well-connected people
  • Were active and visible on social media with respect to tracking and sharing recent developments

All of this easy to say, but it’s tougher to pull off all that right from the start. Here are my steps to help you get into continuous learning, but also to develop it.

Step 1 – Set a Clear And Specific Goal

Basic motivation dictates that if you want to achieve something you need to want it. No other gimmick or trick will work. As such, the best way to show you want something is to set a clear and specific goal.

A goal at its core is a habit and there are all kinds of methods to help you develop that habit. You can take a slow route and consider the Kaizen method.

Or if you want something more technical, look to BJ Fogg and his work on forming new habits. In his book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything , he explains three conditions that need to be met:

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  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

This first step is the most crucial because if you lack motivation, there is little that will keep you moving forward. No one will willingly learn for the sake of learning as Roger Schank explains.[3]

So how can you find the motivation to meet these three conditions?

Sometimes, you need to find a passion that can boost you to do this. Examples of these passions come in many forms, some negative, but still effective:

  • Frustration – expressing unhappiness about the current state of affairs and want to change it.
  • Self-improvement – already have a desire to improve yourself in some fashion.
  • Status – a desire to feel valued and contributing to a change.
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – you don’t want to be left behind and miss something important.

On top of that, these examples can also shape your goals. For example, if you’re frustrated with the current state of affairs with your group or team, you can learn how to solve issues in an easier manner or communicate effectively to get points and ideas across.

Step 2 – Create a Learning System (Or Program)

Once your goal is defined, the next thing is to build a system to help support your strategy. You want to be looking for diverse sources of information, but also to be picky about it.

Diversity is key for a variety of reasons. Not only does different opinions open your mind, but it also allows you to discover other angles to problems.

Steve Jobs designed the Pixar building with this philosophy in mind.[4] And we can apply that philosophy in our own learning. For example, reading a blog post on human psychology can make you a better communicator, sales rep, or marketer. How can that happen? That’s where the diverse bit steps in.

Allow your mind to wander and challenge yourself to connect the dots between those pieces of information. It could change your perspective or your overall approach to a problem.

But as I said above, you want to be picky about the diversity too. Your continuous learning system should be diverse, but also selective. There is a lot of information out there and while learning feels good, you don’t want to cram in the wrong information.

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Make sure that you devote most of your time to learning within your specific field. Furthermore, ensure the information is coming from a trustworthy source.

Step 3 – Empower Yourself with Various Tools

Either individually or as a group, you want to be using other tools to help enhance the learning system. There are all kinds of tools to help you present information and learning.

Seminars, workshops, and live classes are still popular training tools. That much is clear with platforms like Udemy and Skillshare that offer thousands of courses on various topics for cheap prices.

These are the tools that modern learners need as this grants learning from anywhere and at any time. Furthermore, those platforms give you have access to those courses so long as you have an account there.

Step 4 – Automate the Learning Process

The final step is to automate the process. The market for Learning Management Systems (LMS) is vast, and there is a wide variety of tools to help with that.

What these tools do is make the learning process easier. It saves you time scouring the Internet for blog articles and courses on the information. Instead, these systems present them normally in a feed-like style for easy consumption.

All that’s left is to tell the system what you want to learn and which one to pick. Anderspink is one company that offers a learning system. Other options are iSpring, Learn Upon, Mindflash and more. Each one has its own unique features, so take the free trial and see which one you like the most.

Final Thoughts

Continuous learning provides a lot of distinct advantages to your career and life. Not only does it keep us sharper, but learning can enhance other areas in our lives. And once we tailor our learning experience, we can enhance specific skills and speed up the learning process with various tools and platforms.

More About Continuous Learning

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

Featured photo credit: Blaz Erzetic via unsplash.com

Reference

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