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DIY Education: Teach Yourself

DIY Education: Teach Yourself
Studying

    Education is touted as the greatest way to get ahead in this world. And, in general, it’s a great strategy. Maybe you have the perfect idea for an invention and you need a little engineering know-how, or maybe you just need to get ahead of the guy in the next cubicle over. No matter what plan you have for getting ahead, odds are a little learning will help. The problem, as I see it, is that education is also an industry. You want a string of fancy letters behind your name? Prepare to pay for it.

    While you may need a certificate in order to be a licensed professional of some sort, however, you don’t need to attend an expensive class for many of your other learning needs. There are plenty of stunning examples of people who have gotten ahead based on their self-education — enough that there is a fancy term for them; they’re called autodidacts. Step up and join the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Stanley Kubrick and Frank Zappa.

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    Resources — Getting Started


    The Independent Scholar’s Handbook
    — PDF: The Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars has made The Independent Scholar’s Handbook available as a free download. It’s a full book (322 pages) of information on how to study on your own, as well as tips on finding resources on the topics you want to study.

    The Autodidact Project
    : Ralph Dumain has put together information about autodidactism — self-education at the Autodidact Project, including a number of study guides.

    Resources — Learning Materials


    The LifeHack How-To Wiki
    : Consider starting your self-education right here with LifeHack. There’s even an article on self-education on the wiki that you might find useful.

    Fathom
    : A number of universities, led by Columbia University, have put together a whole host of free resources at Fathom. The information is arranged into courses, making it possible to take short classes from the American Film Institute, the London School of Economics and other prestigious institutes for free.

    Wikiversity
    : While there are some pretty significant gaps in the do-it-yourself courses Wikiversity offers, I’ve found some great resources on science and business subjects — two areas that my college major just didn’t emphasize.

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    Mentoring and Interviewing: Just sitting down and talking with someone who is more of an expert on a topic than you are can introduce you to new areas of learning that you hadn’t even considered. You can set up formal interviews with experts or have more casual conversations.

    iTunes U
    : Through iTunes, a huge number of schools offer recordings of lectures in every subject. Currently, I’m working through Stanford’s course on the Future of the Internet, and after that, I’m thinking about listening in on an evolutionary biology class.

    Your Local Library: Most libraries offer far more learning resources than simple how-to books. My boyfriend is currently working his way through our local library’s collection of Chinese lessons on CD. And if you aren’t familiar with your local library, I recommend PublicLibraries.com — it’s a huge directory of public libraries, mostly U.S. with some international listings.

    TheHomeSchoolMom.com
    : TheHomeSchoolMom.com, along with thousands of other homeschooling websites offer up all sorts of free educational resources from curriculums to texts. While these sites rarely have advanced coverage of a topic, if you’re looking to start with the basics, you’re likely to find exactly what you need.

    Project Gutenberg
    : While there are a number of websites where you can get free e-books, Project Gutenberg is one of the best known, and seems to have one of the widest selections. You may not be able to find many technical works there, but if you’re interested in the classics or history, Project Gutenberg is the place to go.

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    Staying on Track

    Anyone can read a book. Most people can even report back on the pertinent information that book contained. But it can be much harder to synthesize information together from multiple sources, especially if those sources have been picked out without a clear plan of attack. I’ve been known to do this — I pick up random books at the library and start in on new topics with no plan whatsoever. Learn from my mistake — trying to put together ideas on the fly can be extremely difficult.

    If you’re starting in on a new topic, it makes sense to make a plan of some sort. Your plan doesn’t need to be much more formal than “I’m going to read the Wikipedia article on Topic X, and then check if the library has any of the books Wikipedia cites.” That much of a plan, though, keeps you from coming up with a book list with fifty books that you won’t be able to finish. (Once again, I speak from experience.)

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    From there, your self-education can be as simple as reading and taking a few notes. I generally try to write up some sort of report or article on a new topic, just because information seems to stick a bit better when I explain it to someone else. I can just about always find a new home for such a report, as well — a blog post, an article, etc. Occasionally, I even manage to get paid for all that learning I’ve done.

    Lastly…

    I don’t have anything against formalized learning — I really enjoy lecture-format classes, actually — but if I took all the classes I wanted to, my student loans would be equal to the national debt. Studying on my own has made continuing my education far less expensive and potentially more interesting. I never know what my new learning might suggest for the next topic of study.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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