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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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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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