Every day we’re hit with an enormous amount of new information. Whether it’s coming from a news article, story, or experience, it can be difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of messages that our brain receives.
It can be equally challenging to remember any of it. Have you ever found yourself forgetting key points, frustrated that you couldn’t learn the thing you set out to learn?
Fortunately for us, there is a simple yet powerful practice that can help us retain information. The best educators use it in schools, yet many of us neglect it in our individual learning pursuits.
This practice is reflection.
What is Reflection?
Reflection is the step when we consider what new information just came in and how it affects us. In the simplest terms, it’s thinking about thinking. Our brain analyzes the unfamiliar information and begins to place it into our pre-existing schemas of information.
To paint you a metaphor, imagine a retail clerk receiving a new article of clothing. She will evaluate the piece, determine if its worthy, and then store it on its proper rack. Our brains store new pieces of information into similar categories that our mind has already developed.
But reflection goes a step further. Not only does it help us organize new information, but it also helps show us where the information could be used in the future. We begin to construct ideas for how the information applies to us and where we could use it.
Reflection, put simply, is where we construct meaning. It helps raise your energy frequency in life.
And it’s in this meaning and energy flow that we create that will make your learning stick.
How to Implement Reflection Easily To Make your Learning Stick
Fortunately for you, it’s easier to apply reflection in your daily life than you may think. Learn three simple steps you can do in your everyday life to help make your learning stick.
- Write your thoughts about the topic down
Often, we learn a new idea and then immediately move onto the next one. It’s difficult not to when information floods us every day. This rapid progression to the next idea, however, is not allowing your brain the time to process what you just learned. A simple step you can do to make your learning stick is to write the new idea down after-the-fact.
I say after-the-fact because taking notes while receiving new information is not true reflection. While note-taking can be helpful, reflection needs to happen after you’ve learned something. The after-quality is when your brain can begin to construct the meaning of the information. It also gives you a moment of mindfulness that can help boost your productivity.
If you want your learning to stick, pull out a piece of paper or computer and jot down the main take-aways. Your notes don’t have to be long or in-depth. By simply recording what you think of the new information, you are kicking your brain into long-term memory drive.
- Talk about what you learned with others
Another great way to make your learning stick is to talk about new ideas with others. For some people, writing feels too formal. However, having a conversation can feel natural and comfortable. You can call a friend or family member, bring it up at the dining table, or mention it while bored at work. People are looking for conversations in their daily lives, and new ideas provide an excellent starting point.
Conversations also make for great reflection for two reasons. First, when you’re explaining a new idea to someone else, you’re repeating it to yourself a second time. This repetition helps lock the information in your brain. Second, conversations naturally open themselves to opinions and follow-up questions.
It’s this back-and-forth, in which you consider the idea, that your brain will do a thorough analysis of the information and what it means. Without even realizing it, your mind will be figuring out what the new information means for you, thus helping to make your learning stick.
- Ask and pursue a follow-up question
If you’re more inquisitive by nature, you can ask a follow-up question about what you learned. You don’t need to share this question with anyone else. It’s more critical that you pursue an answer to your question. This pursuit of knowledge can be through a simple web search, another experience, or future activities.
While it might seem like this option has you moving on, it’s doing the opposite. When you ask a question, your brain has already done a thorough reflection of what you learned. It has already considered what the information means, why it’s essential, and what it might be missing. Your pursuit of more knowledge helps shape what you just learned. Curiosity also can help shape your passion and follow its lead.
Reflection won’t happen if you dive into a rabbit-hole of questions and searchers. Instead, be intentional about the question you ask. Be even more intentional in your pursuit of the answer. As you do this, your brain will construct meaning from what you learned. Inevitably, it will help make your learning stick.
Reflection is a simple practice that you can implement in your daily life to make your learning stick. Rather than feeling frustrated or stressed, you can help your brain do what it’s best at, processing and analyzing information. When you allow your mind to do so, it’ll do wonders for your memory and meaning moving forward.
Kara runs MyQuestionLife.com, a blog dedicated to help you find clarity, connection, and meaning in life. She combines fun facts about human nature with the questions you need to understand yourself and what you need to find purpose.
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