One fact is certain. Each of us only lives once, so it is vital to live life to the fullest and make the most out of this one opportunity. To do that, we must learn to develop right relationships, both with God and other people. Having good habits that relate to personal hygiene and a host of other worthwhile practices is also a great asset.
There is one habit, one daily activity, that will undeniably add zest and intellectual fulfillment to whatever number of years we have on this earth. That is the practice of learning something new every day. Developing a love of learning makes life richer in a variety of ways.
Developing a commitment to learning something new every day brings to mind the words Socrates spoke in the fifth century. While on trial for the heresy of teaching his students to think for themselves, even when it meant opposing the accepted beliefs of that day, he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” For each person today, just as for Socrates then, a constant inflow of information, accompanied by deep thought and critical thinking, adds immeasurable quality to the human experience.
Here are some suggestions that can help you experience the pleasure, excitement, intellectual growth and all the other benefits that come to the person who is continually learning. Sooner is better than later, so today would be the best time to start on this adventure.
Strategies to Improve Your Learning
Make a Commitment to Daily Learning
Write on paper your decision to learn each day at least one new thing you didn’t know before, and keep this promise to yourself in a place where you will frequently see it. Every time you are reminded and then follow through on actually learning something, you are building and strengthening a good habit. Before long, seeking out and learning something new each day will become so natural that you will no longer give it a thought. If you have not already been consciously doing daily learning this is an important first step.
Be Alert for New Facts
You can learn something new from many sources. Learning doesn’t just happen in classrooms; it can occur anytime and anyplace. Be alert at work, school, while attending a baseball game or wherever you are, for that moment when you see, hear or read something that causes you to say “Hey, that’s interesting. I want to remember that.” It can happen anywhere. Long after the rest of your day is forgotten, that single thing you learned can sparkle like a diamond and continue to enrich your life.
Develop an Attitude of Curiosity
Why? How? When? Where? Who? These are all great questions! You need not try to answer all, or even any, of these questions about every subject, but when something piques your interest, find out about it. You will tend to remember things that you are interested in and curious about. The information stored in your memory will flow into your thoughts like water runs downhill. Most children have a natural curiosity that they express by asking, “Why?” The tragedy is that so many adults lose this natural curiosity about who and why. Those who retain their natural curiosity often stand out and are called geniuses or gifted. Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers and a host of others are remembered as people reputed to be ever curious. Most of us know people who are more curious by nature than those around them. Make a conscious effort to develop an attitude like that. It will make learning fun and give a sense of satisfaction as you learn to answer your own questions. Curiosity doesn’t “kill the cat,” it enriches the lives of those who experience it.
If your desire is to learn, reading is the magical key that very often opens the door to knowledge. Reading is basic to accumulating information. It is important to read from a wide variety of sources and not just one, single type of information, such as just newspapers or just magazines. It is easy to frequently learn new facts just from reading. Some excellent books to get acquainted with are a dictionary, a world almanac, an encyclopedia and other reference books. A library is a wonderful repository for a huge variety of books, and it is available to use for free. It is wise parents who begin to take their young children to the library and then continue to do so as their kids grow up. The best time to begin learning at least one new thing per day is while a person is still young. Books are also a great investment and make wonderful gifts. The invention and marketing of electronic readers make the purchase and reading of electronic books an even easier process. Reading widely and reading often will present you with an excellent opportunity to learn and grow wiser.
Talk to Experts
A fun way to go about learning new things is to talk with people who are smarter or more knowledgeable than you. Who does this description include? It includes almost everyone, because almost everyone is wiser or knows more about one, or more likely several, subjects than you are. It is okay to ask questions. Most people enjoy answering sincere questions and sharing their knowledge with those who are interested. Think about the people you know. There is surely one among them with special knowledge that you would enjoy having, too. A fringe benefit of this style of learning new things is you will not only learn, but will also probably develop new friendships. Gaining a new friend in this way will give an appreciation for that particular bit of learning achieved. The world is full of knowledgeable people. Go out and take advantage of that fact.
Leverage the Web
There is a wonderful source of information today that was not available until fairly recently. It is the Internet. You can locate facts and information about almost any subject that interests you. If at first you don’t succeed in finding what you seek, keep looking. In all probability, the information is there and can be found when you type the right combination of words into a search engine. The Internet has revolutionized how research is done and given an ease to school work, accounting and many other subjects that never existed before. Websites such as ehow.com, about.com, thisoldhouse.com and a host of others will take you step-by-step through the process of how to do almost anything. Today children grow up familiar with and well-able to use computers. If you are part of a slightly older generation and have few computer skills, you can often enlist your child or your grandchild to help you learn the “how to” of computer use. Information is easy to store on a computer, which is an advantage to learning your “something new each day” via the computer. You can always go back and double check whatever you have saved. A word of caution: not every piece of information on the Internet is accurate. If something you read doesn’t sound right, check another source.
Documentaries & Educational TV
Still another enjoyable way to learn is to watch educational television. There are fascinating programs filled with all kinds of interesting information on television. The major networks all carry some programs like that, but it is perhaps on the cable channels that you will find a mother lode of great information. The History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, National Public Broadcasting, the Discovery Channel and numerous other stations have many well-done, fact-filled programs that make learning simple and fun. Check them out. For those who have children, letting your kids watch this programming with you can help them develop their own love of learning. The earlier you start this practice, the better. There are things wrong with TV programming, but good stuff is there if you simply look for it.
Magazines & Newsletters
An eighth way to insure you learn something new every day is to subscribe to one, or a few, well-chosen magazines. It is amazing how many different magazines are available. There are many different ones that deal with hundreds of different subjects. A single issue can provide information for several days, or even weeks, of learning. They are also usually inexpensive when purchased by subscription. Subscribing also means that the magazine is delivered directly to your home which makes for great convenience. There are many reasons to subscribe to magazines, but perhaps none is better than doing so gains an excellent source for daily learning.
There are other sources for information suitable for daily learning, but the last to be suggested in this article is personal observation. You can lower your stress level find peace of mind and experience the joy of a personally-developed learning opportunity through observing nature. A regular bird feeder on your deck, a careful observation of weather patterns or information gained as you work in the garden are just a few of the wonderful ways to learn through personal observation. It is guaranteed that everything you learn in this way will be practical and useful. People will be impressed by how much you have learned while they see the same things every day and yet have learned little or nothing. If a person had to choose just one source from which to learn, this would be an excellent choice.
Get Started Today
There are some tips that will help you get started in the life-long process of learning something new each day. They will make it simpler and more fun.
- Do not approach this as a job that has to be done or some kind of obligation. Look at it as an opportunity that will give you self-confidence and satisfaction.
- Always be alert, whatever you are doing, for an interesting fact or for how to do something that would be helpful for you to know. You will learn many valuable lessons without even realizing you are doing so.
- Use as many of your senses as possible to learn new facts. Write them down, so you can see them. Read them aloud, so you can hear them. This will help you to remember them.
- Share the information with another person and discuss the significance of it.
- Never assume that you are too old or too young to learn or that you already know everything that you need to know.
- Develop the tools needed to be successful at this undertaking. All you really need are an open mind, a willingness to learn and a source of information.
- Understand that there is far more to wisdom than just knowledge, but this activity, when done for the right reasons and in the right way, is a step toward wisdom.
Every day, in millions of homes, parents ask the question of their children, “What did you learn in school today?” The most frequent answer a child gives is, “Nothing.” So many parents, if they were asked the similar question, “What did you learn today?” would give the same answer, “Nothing.” That is as unfortunate as it is unnecessary. Why not, right now, take the first steps to insure that you learn something new every day?