Be a learner

Whether students near you started school two weeks ago or still have two weeks of summer vacation left, back-to-school fever is high.

It's not just children who should be learning. We all benefit from acquiring new skills and mastering new subjects. I'm most intrigued by the fact that learning leads to happiness.

The article I linked to quotes Jacquelyn James, the director of research at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, as saying, “As we get older, it is more important to find things to do that light up our lives." The article goes on to say, "Our minds are central to this effort, and thrive when we are finding new things for them to do. Whether it’s acquiring a new skill or language (very high on the list of mental acuity benefits), joining a new group and meeting new people, or finding ways to continue using existing skills, successful aging and longevity are built upon patterns of lifelong learning."

Want to improve your learning? Here are five ideas that have worked well for me:

  • Listen to podcasts and/or audiobooks. These are great ways to consume educational content while driving, walking, doing chores, etc. I love that on the drive into work I can be learning about philanthropy and on the drive home I can be learning about the behind-the-scenes of making a TV show.

  • Keep a learning log. Right before vacation, I was working way too many hours and making way too many mistakes. The best way to find some benefit in the extra work I caused myself was to start a log of what went well and what I learned on each project. I've extended the idea from my work life into my real life too, keeping track of lessons learned along the way.

  • Establish learning objectives. On an annual, quarterly or even monthly basis, identify what you want to learn more about. My emphasis for the rest of 2018 will be on developing a better relationship with money. I've downloaded new podcasts and bought a few books. I'm also having more conversations about it and will probably be writing about it too.

  • Acquire deep knowledge and expertise on a particular topic. It has been so rewarding to do so much reading about happiness. It's made me happier. It's also led to a blog and a side business as a speaker.

  • Step out of your comfort zone. I remember learning in college that to be a better teacher, you should learn something that doesn't come naturally for you. I've benefited from going to laughter yoga and a painting class and am hoping to learn to play the guitar.

Even without stepping into a classroom, there are plenty ways to expand your knowledge. And you get to pick the curriculum!

Want to live longer and better? Be a learner.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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