“When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.” – Bill Moyers
We often get so entrenched in our daily routines that we forget to learn on a daily basis. Lifehacks, GTD, family, work, and social networking are all great ways to grow and enjoy life. They provide new experience and insight while offering endless opportunites for daily learning.
But learning is best when it’s gained through concerted effort. Here are ten simple ways you can learn something new every day.
- Ask. Did you ever stop to consider why children are like little knowledge sponges? They don’t allow pride to prevent them from asking questions. More than anything, asking questions is the number one way to learn more every day. And while I’m guilty of letting pride stand in my way when an opportunity to verbally ask a question presents itself, I often circle the wagons by searching for and reading about my question on the internet. Then I can follow up with someone who is more knowledgeable on the subject and talk intelligently – which is often better than a one-sided lecture on a topic.
- Read. Every day. If you have dead time, you have time to read. With the wealth of knowledge available online, there’s never an excuse not to read. If a question comes to mind and you can’t find an answer immediately, write it down for future investigation – this is a great way to build a reading list. If a question was powerful enough to make its way into your thoughts, it’s likely the answer will be powerful enough to stick around too – so it’ll be there when you need it.
- Search. Chase down answers to your most basic questions. Want to know what it means for coffee to taste “earthy?” Spend the next several cups of coffee exploring different flavors and aromas. Ask the barista what tastes you should be looking for in your next cup. No question is so small that it doesn’t have an answer worthy of you.
- Slow Down. Stop running so fast. If you jump straight from the bed to the shower to the car to the office, you’re moving too fast to uncover the questions that life presents – much less their answers. Want proof? Experiment by riding your bike or walking to work one day next week. I promise you’ll notice things you’ve never seen before.
- Listen. I mean really listen – to a lecture, a spouse, a parent, or even the lyrics of a song. Active listening promotes learning every single time we practice it. Great public speakers are great because they listen to the feedback (audible and otherwise) that they get from the audience and they respond to it accordingly. Active listening to music or nature will not only slow you down, it will teach you something new about the sights and sounds we often take for granted.
- Meditate / Reflect. It’s like saying “slow waaaay down.” Believe it or not, some things can’t be learned from the internet – or even the rest of the world. Some answers can only come from the inside out. Taking time to be still and pray/meditate/reflect is one of the best gifts you can give yourself – and it will make you a better learner.
- Look. Also similar to slowing down, but quite different at the same time. Look at things from different perspectives (and I mean that literally). If you’re accustomed to seeing something close up, look at it from far away. When was the last time you used a microscope or a telescope? Do you remember when you last looked through a pair of binoculars . . . backwards? Look around and find something fun to examine.
- Taste. One of the most enjoyable ways to learn new things is by taste. It can be as simple sampling a new type of coffee or espresso. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had has been trying new food with a group of friends. Taste and texture generate long lasting memories. Describing them can be a very challenging exercise.
- Touch. One of the most inspirational minds of modern times relied almost 100% on touch to learn about the world in which she lived. Helen Keller knew more about living a fulfilling life than most of us could ever imagine. Follow her lead and spend a few moments a day just noticing the temperature and texture of the things that surround you.
- Smell. Memories of smells are long-lasting due to the close proximity between memory centers in the brain and the terminus of olfactory neurons. Spending a few moments smelling new things can result in memories that last a lifetime.
- Bonus Tip: Write.Similar to a gratitude journal, a knowledge journal is an attempt to take the ordinary events of a day and extract the most valuable learning experiences from them. Keep a notebook or journal documenting daydreams, thought experiements, and stressful times and you’ll automatically solidify the knowledge you gained from each.
About the Author: Ryan Stewart is a web geek, non-profit junkie, and future medical student living in east Tennessee with his wife and two chihuahuas, Pedro & Gabby. He writes about lifelong learning as a means of practicing it – see bonus tip eleven. PermaStudent.com is his home on the web.