How to Learn New Things

Four Methods:Finding Ways to LearnChoosing What to LearnGetting More InformedSticking With the Pursuit of Knowledge

To learn new things is beneficial at any age, and any kind of learning can benefit other aspects of your life. For instance, taking music lessons can increase your language skills.[1] If you're interested in a topic, study it. If you'd like a new skill, practice it. Your life is ever-changing and infinitely complex, and your ability to experience it depends on your willingness the learn. The more you learn, the more you live.

Method 1
Finding Ways to Learn

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    Take classes. If you're in school, you have your pick of the topics that interest you. If you aren't, or if your school offers a limited program, you'll need to find teachers elsewhere. Check out the course listings at your local community college. Look for churches, free schools, and community recreation centers, and cultural centers that offer lessons. Check listings in local magazines and online for independent teachers and tutors.
    • If you can't find a teacher or tutor in the subject you want, you may want to put up flyers around town and an ad online.
    • Ask people you know if they can recommend a teacher or tutor to you.
    • Sign up for a MOOC. Take free online classes offered by universities and research institutions.[2]
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    Teach yourself. You can pursue knowledge and new skills on your own. Get the materials you need and try to tackle them on your own. You can check out books from your local library on the topic, and look information up online. If you are learning a new skill, try tackling the materials from as many directions as possible.
    • Read up on the history of the subject that interests you.
    • You know how you learn. Are you a hands-on learner? Practice what you're learning. A visual learner? Draw yourself a chart.
    • Don't just read one how-to guide if you're mastering a skill. Try to learn multiple approaches, and make up a few of your own.
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    Do a skill-exchange. Do you know someone who knows something you'd like to know? Ask them to teach you in exchange for you teaching them something else. You might be an excellent gardener, for example, while they're great at guitar. You can trade an hour of gardening consultation for an hour of guitar lessons.
    • Seek out people who are interested in trading skills. If you want to learn some conversational Spanish, for instance, try putting up flyers for a language exchange at language schools, international centers, and other places affiliated with the language you would like to learn. Offer to meet up and speak half an hour of English in exchange for half an hour of Spanish with a native speaker who would like to improve their English.
    • Think about the skills you have. Someone, somewhere, would benefit from those skills.

Method 2
Choosing What to Learn

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    Pick something that really excites you. There's no reason not to learn the things that fascinate you. Nothing is off limits to your mind. What do you fantasize about? You may always have held off from learning music because you knew you'd never be a professional musician. This may be true, but that's no reason not to learn music.
    • If there's a subject you think you're bad at, try tackling that. Even if it's hard for you, you can still increase your basic understanding. Start slow, and get help when you need it.
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    Improve your job-related skills. One way to motivate yourself is to learn skills that can improve your ability to do your job well. Ask yourself what would make you a better candidate for promotion: coding ability? Writing skills? Foreign language fluency? Management training? Are there classes you can take or books you can read that would give you a broader understanding of your field?
    • Ask your boss what training your company offers. Explain your goals. There may even be funding available for certain skills you would like to learn.
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    Embrace failure and confusion. When you are learning a new thing, you are entering into unknown territory. Allow yourself to experience the confusion of unanswered questions and unfamiliar parameters. When you study a new topic, don't look up answers to your questions right away. Instead, spend some time trying to figure the answers out on your own. This kind of trying (and failing) helps you better understand what you are learning.[3].
    • Challenge yourself by trying to replicate a dish you enjoyed at a restaurant without looking up a recipe.
    • Seek out disorienting media, such as classical music, reports on ongoing scientific investigations, and books of contemporary poetry.

Method 3
Getting More Informed

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    Read the news. To become more literate and in touch with the world, read the paper.[4] Subscribe to a quality newspaper and make a daily practice of reading the news. Learn about national and international news, and track current events. Consider subscribing to multiple papers for a less biased approach—no single news source can ever tell the whole story.
    • If you're interested in reading long investigations or analysis, or increasing your knowledge of a specific topic (like the economy, or contemporary art), consider subscribing to a relevant journal.
    • Subscribing isn't enough—if you're really interested in learning through periodicals, make a regular habit of reading. You might read the paper every morning, or read your magazines every weekend.
    • Purchase or borrow books on the subjects that interest you. Ask a librarian or small bookstore owner for help, or get recommendations from online book reviews.
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    Watch documentaries. To learn as you relax, make your screen time informative. Watch documentary series on PBS or the BBC. Check out documentaries on questions of historical interest. Take notes as you go, or just do some follow up reading the next day.
    • Even if you're trying to learn a skill, you can use documentaries to get informed about the history and practice of that skill. If you're learning the banjo, you might want to watch documentaries on bluegrass, old time music, and African instruments.[5]
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    Travel. Learn more about the world by going into it. Take trips to other countries, or just visit the nearby towns you've never seen. Travel to environments you haven't experienced, and learn what it's like to live there. Read and watch movies about the places you're going before you go, and read more while you're there: you'll come up with questions you didn't know you had once you're in a new place.
    • When you visit a new place, try visiting museums devoted to local arts, crafts, and history.
    • Take tours of interesting neighborhoods and buildings.
    • Visit gardens and wildlife sanctuaries, and learn about the local biome.

Method 4
Sticking With the Pursuit of Knowledge

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    Set a schedule. Whether you're taking classes or learning on your own, setting a schedule will help you stick to your new pursuit. If you're learning a new skill, set a practice schedule and stick to it. If you sign up for a class, show up to every class..
    • Pick days and times when you feel alert and relaxed. If you're a morning person, schedule your learning in the morning
    • Don't cram. Giving yourself breaks aids your retention of information.[6] Learn a little bit at a time.
    • Schedule time off as well as time on. If you're learning an instrument, try practicing 6 days a week and resting on the seventh.
    • Sleep on information you want to retain.[7]
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    Study and practice. If you want to learn, study. Write questions for yourself and try to answer them as you learn new things. Quiz yourself regularly on the new knowledge and skills you are acquiring. If you're learning a skill, practice regularly.
    • Use flash cards. No matter if you're learning new things for your own amusement, flash cards are still an effective way to learn. Quiz yourself or ask a friend to quiz you.[8]
    • Test yourself before you learn. Trying to answer questions before you have studied the answers will make it easier for you to learn the answers when you find them, because your brain is already looking for them.[9]
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    Motivate yourself. You'll learn better if you reward yourself as you go. Set learning goals, and meet them. For instance, you might set yourself a goal of learning a new Mandarin character every day for a month. Stick to your goal, and celebrate when you have achieved it.[10]
    • Give yourself a treat for learning new things. Take time to celebrate your learning milestones. You might take yourself out for a meal at a nice Chinese restaurant, for instance, on the last day of the month.
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    Apply your skills. Using what you've learned can be the best reward. If you learn how to draw, set up an exhibit for yourself. If you've learned how to code, make your own website and make websites for your friends. If you learn a new language, take a trip to the place where that language is spoken. If the cost of travel is prohibitive, apply your skills by throwing a foreign language movie night for yourself once a month.
    • If your new knowledge has expanded your bankable skillset, consider changing jobs or applying for a promotion that will allow you to apply your new abilities at work.

Article Info

Categories: Learning Styles