Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 21, 2020

How to Become an Intentional Learner for Never-Ending Growth

How to Become an Intentional Learner for Never-Ending Growth

We human beings are learning machines. We learn through observation. We learn through listening. We learn through watching. We even learn when we’re helping others learn.

Some of what we learn slips in without notice, like when a friend shares a story that you can’t stop thinking about. Some of what we learn is passive, like when we watch the news or when we’re listening to an audiobook while out on a run.

But when we’re intentional about what we’re trying to learn, there’s a purpose behind it, which means we want to soak more of it up and internalize it—so that we can apply the concepts in our lives.

Intentional learning is essentially goal-directed learning—learning for a specific purpose. It isn’t accidental—it’s deliberate.

Having a deliberate approach—especially when it comes to learning—is crucial if you’re the type of person who’s dedicated to a constant and never-ending pursuit of personal growth.

In this article, you’ll learn 7 tips on how to become an intentional learner so that you can make your intentional learning efforts as impactful and effective as possible—no matter what you want to learn.

How Do I Become an Intentional Learner?

Intentional learning is what happens when you focus on learning specific things for specific purposes.

Here are some examples that may prompt you to become an intentional learner:

  • If you want to learn how to start an online business, you might Google about it and read several articles.
  • If you want to surprise your spouse for your upcoming anniversary by cooking her favorite dish for dinner, you might enroll in a cooking class that’s specifically tailored toward teaching you how to cook the type of dish or cuisine she loves.
  • If you want to learn a new language, you might get some learning software, like Rosetta Stone, to help you learn it.
  • If you want to deepen your knowledge about Personal Development[1], you might read two or three best-selling books about it or listen to some Self-Improvement podcasts.[2]

Now that we’ve set the context, let’s dive into the specific tips on how to become an intentional learner. Learning these tips will help you make your intentional learning efforts as impactful and effective as possible—no matter what you want to learn.

Let’s get into it.

1. Set a Learning Goal

The most powerful way to start with intentional learning is to actually begin with intention. In other words, clarify the results you seek to achieve with what you plan to learn and it’ll be easier to retain and apply that knowledge over the long run.

Use the following questions to help you drill down and clarify your learning goal:

  • What’s the goal (desired result/outcome) you seek to achieve?
  • Why do you want to achieve it?
  • What kind of problem are you trying to solve with what you want to learn?
  • What do you need to learn to solve your problem or achieve your learning goal?
  • What’s the most effective and efficient way to learn it?
  • How will you know when you have accomplished your learning goal?

2. Have a Deep Desire

When I was around 19 years old, I decided to get myself in shape. At the time, I was what you might call “skinny-fat.” I was totally out of shape and living an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle. I rarely ever had any energy. I didn’t feel good about what I saw in the mirror every morning, and I was ready for change.

I’d tried to learn about health and fitness in the past but always half-heartedly. I’d look up some workouts and try them at the gym, but I never really committed myself.

I tried to eat healthier, but I’d inevitably give up and end up at the drive-thru.

Advertising

And then one day, it just hit me: do I really want to spend the rest of my life like this?

I knew the answer was “No”.

I remember standing in front of the mirror, looking at my soft, chubby body in disgust.

At that moment, I told myself that enough was enough. I was sick of feeling this way. Sick of feeling unhealthy. Sick of not feeling good about myself physically. I was sick to my stomach.

And then I imagined how it would feel if I could turn myself around—if I could learn about exercise, nutrition, and eating healthy foods—and then apply those learnings in the gym and kitchen. How phenomenal would I feel?

I thought about all of the ways that learning how to get into shape (and then actually doing what it takes to get there) would positively impact my life. Thinking about how great it would make me feel, I’d given birth to a deep desire to make this a reality in my own life.

On that day, I began my transformation—and I haven’t looked back since.

That very same day, I spent ten hours reading and learning about diets, nutrition, and exercise. I put plans together—and actually followed them. And soon after, the results I’d imagined had become a reality. I felt healthier and more lively. I had that lean, muscular physique I’d dreamt about.

I built a new version of myself. And it felt incredible. It was a pivotal point in my life. And it all began with a deep desire.

So, what’s a deep desire of your own that you can fulfill through intentional learning?

Find it and ignite it.

3. Strategize and Organize

Rather than learning haphazardly, first, figure out a strategy and structure that’s best suited to your learning needs.

Look at your responses to the questions from the first two tips, and design a learning approach that will help you get the knowledge you need as quickly and effectively as possible.

Some people might benefit from reading full books, while others might benefit from reviewing a bunch of book summaries on a related topic.

Some people can learn what they need by watching tutorials on YouTube, while others need to get a coach.

Advertising

Whichever strategy you choose, organize it in a way that works best for you.

Also, keep in mind that sometimes it’s helpful to let off the gas and relax a bit: we can sometimes fall into tunnel vision when we’re learning new things, but it’s important to keep in mind that learning happens while we’re daydreaming or doing seemingly unrelated things.

Give yourself time to digest your learnings like a good meal. Let your mind wander and wonder about what you’re learning from time to time.

That said, remember that your strategy and structure for intentional learning must be organized and executed around a learning priority that you want to achieve.

It should also be something that you genuinely desire to learn. Not just because your teacher told you to, or because your boss told you to—but because YOU told you to, and because you want to.

And finally, throughout your intentional learning process, be sure to monitor your methods to be sure that they’re helping you achieve your learning goals and needs.

4. Review It to Retain It

After we’ve learned something new, we’ve got a 24 -hour window of time to capitalize on retaining that new knowledge.

This 24-hour window is called the “forgetting curve.” Basically, what it means is this: unless you review the material you’ve just learned, you’ll forget most of it after the first 24 hours—and you’ll continue to lose more over the days that follow. This leaves you with a fraction of what you learned initially.

As someone who’s interested in becoming an intentional learner, you’d probably prefer to avoid that if you can, am I right?

So how?

Let’s say you’ve just read a book. You can probably recall much of what you read the next day. But what about the next month? How about a year from now?

Next year, you’ll probably still remember enough about the book to vaguely tell someone about it. But would you remember all the key concepts?

Of course not. In reality, you’d end up forgetting more than 80% of the material you read.

Compare this to one of your favorite songs—one that you can easily remember word-for-word.

Why is it so easy to remember the lyrics to your favorite song, and so difficult to remember the big ideas from a book you’ve read?

Advertising

If you like a song, you probably listen to it repeatedly—this is a form of reviewing.

If you apply the same methodology to that book you’ve just read, you’d be able to remember more of that, too. Of course, it would be silly to re-read a book as often as you repeat your favorite song.

But could there be another way to review the concepts from the book?

Yes! Here’s just one way: take notes about the book as you read it, and then review those notes within a 24-hour window.

If you do that, you’ll lock-in much more of the material. Come back a week later for further review, and you’ll lock-in even more.

Reviewing doesn’t have to be rote. You can read or learn about something, and then draw pictures to help you retain the material. You can repeat what you’ve learned back to yourself in your own words. You can look over your notes.

It’s not about boring yourself to death, it’s about connecting the dots and looking at what you’ve learned from different angles.

5. Apply What You Learn

Contrary to popular belief, knowledge is NOT power.

Knowledge is POTENTIAL power.

That is to say, that whatever you learn—intentionally or passively—is useless unless you apply it.

The key to becoming an intentional learner is to take what you’ve learned and put it to use to achieve a goal—to fulfill a desired aim and ambition.

Knowledge is just like a muscle: if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Find a way to apply what you learn in your everyday life.

  • If you’ve learned about how eating more fiber is healthy, you might apply it by looking for the fiber content on the nutrition labels of your food.
  • If you’ve learned a new word, you can apply it by using it in conversations and writing it down.
  • If you’ve just learned a new marketing tactic for your business, you might apply it by testing it out on a segment of your business.

You can apply whatever you’re learning about within your daily life. In fact, the more intentional you are about doing this, the more of an intentional learner you’ll become.

Take immediate action on the things you learn and you’ll understand them better.[3] Applying what you learn helps you make new connections to things you’ve already learned as well—which further enhances your understanding.

Advertising

6. Revise and Reflect

Have you ever frantically reviewed something right before a test in hopes of keeping it fresh in your mind?

Hate to break it to you, but it’s not as effective as you think. When it comes to learning something, it’s not about freshness—it’s about depth. If you want to internalize information, the real key is in the quality of your reflection.

Take some time to think about the knowledge you’ve just learned. Digest it. Imagine how it works in different scenarios.

Think about it before bed. Think about it when you rise. Set aside some time to revise the material.

Personally, every Sunday, I sit down to review and reflect upon everything I’ve done and learned about over the week. Throughout the week, I’m checking things off and making notes about new ideas and things I’ve learned and would like to remember. All of this goes to my journal. I’ve even laid out the whole process in an episode of my podcast here.[4]

The bottom line is this: you want to engrave and embed the new knowledge in your mind. And regularly reflecting upon what you learn helps you do that.

You don’t need to practice every type of reflection I’ve mentioned above. You just need to practice some form of reflection to take what you’ve learned and make it stick.

7. Teach What You Learn

We’re saving the best—yes, the best—tip for last.

The most effective method for becoming an intentional learner is to teach what you learn.

Teaching what you learn is potent and powerful because:

  • It requires you to thoughtfully organize information such that others can understand it as you teach it.
  • It allows you to gain useful feedback about whether what you’ve taught is actually sinking-in, by observing how someone else is interacting with it.
  • When you’re teaching something, you force your mind to find effective ways to describe the material, so that it can be absorbed by the learner.
  • You’ll come up with new metaphors and examples to illustrate what you are teaching.

And all of this combines together to help reinforce the concepts in your own mind.

It’s Time to Become an Intentional Learner

All good things must come to an end, and now, my fellow intentional learner, we’ve come to ours. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop.

Now it’s your turn to use this information for never-ending growth as an intentional learner. Take this new knowledge you’ve just read about and begin to apply it within your own life.

Use it, review it, apply it, and teach it to others. Knowledge, after all, is meant to be shared.

More Tips for Learning Effectively

Featured photo credit: Chris Benson via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Dean Bokhari
[2] Apple Podcasts Preview: Dean Bokhari’s Meaningful Show
[3] Dean Bokhari: Action Leads to Motivation
[4] Apple Podcasts: Dean Bokhari’s Meaningful Show

More by this author

Dean Bokhari

Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

50 Self-Affirmations to Help You Stay Motivated Every Day Why You’re Not Interested in Anything And Have No Motivation How to Actually Make Your Goals Happen 7 Things That Cause a Lack of Motivation (And How to Fix Them) books about spirituality 7 Science-Backed Books About Spirituality That Will Change Your Life

Trending in Learning

1 How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You? 2 Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily 3 6 Common Types of Learners (With Learning Hacks for Each) 4 Why is it HARD to Learn? Upgrade your Learning Style and Study Better! 5 10 Tools That Make Learning At Home More Efficient

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 26, 2021

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.

Advertising

While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.

Advertising

Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.

Advertising

These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.

Advertising

As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Anna Earl via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

Read Next