“Everything popular is wrong” — Oscar Wilde
In the book, BLUE ZONES: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, author Dan Buettner details some incredible science on how to live the longest possible life.
One of the key insights is to continually learn NEW and different things. You will age very quickly if you stop learning.
Use different learning styles
Learning tons and tons about one idea or subject is good. But it’s also ineffective to learn about one thing in the same learning style.
WHAT you learn about matters, but HOW you learn matters a lot more.
If you only read books, even if you’re reading about multiple subjects, your brain will atrophy in certain areas, which will age you faster.
According to 50 years of research on learning theory, we all have a dominant learning style. We all also have several backup learning styles we rely on when we’re in a difficult situation. However, there are also several other learning styles that each of us neglect and avoid.
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Some of these learning styles include:
- Imagining: which involves coming up with ideas
- Reflecting: which involves learning about the ideas you come up with
- Analyzing: which involves synthesizing what you’ve learning and making strategic plans about what to do with those ideas
- Deciding: which involves making a decision on ONE WAY you will go with a specific idea
- Acting: which involves DOING SOMETHING toward the attainment of your idea
- Experiencing: which involves learning from multiple angles, whether that be with other people, creating something, failing, or attempting
The more learning styles you can regularly experience, the better and healthier your brain will be.
Spend 15-30 minutes per day learning something TOTALLY DIFFERENT (do it just for fun, nut in an aggressive way)
When you were a kid, you tried tons of different things. Your brain was expanding and stretching left-and-right. Unfortunately, most people stop trying new things the older they get.
If you want to make your brain healthier, and if you want to become a “super-learner,” it’s essential to continually learn different things.
Learning new languages is amazing for your brain. However, you don’t want to learn those languages with the same methods. The more methods you can implement the better.
For example, here are a few methods you could use:
- Use an app
- Use flash-cards
- Watch films in that language
- Have conversations with people who speak the language
- Listen to music in the language
- Write journal entries in the language
- Eat food from the culture
The more immersive the experience the better. However, even just actively learning something new for 15-30 minutes per day will open your brain and consciousness in so many ways.
Learning musical instruments is also very, very healthy for your brain. I recently started learning piano off a cool app. It’s addictive! A few days ago, I practiced for three hours straight! I couldn’t get myself to stop it was so fun.
If you can gamify your learning, all the better. By gamify, I mean to make it into a game. In video games, you have “quests” or “goals” to accomplish.
The reason I like the app I’m learning piano on is that I have 15-minute lessons, and within those lessons, I have 5-10 sub-lessons. The competitor in me loves knocking-out as many lessons as possible.
Just like in a video game, it’s fun to see how far you can go.
How your brain changes when you learn something new
There is a lot of brain science into how this works and how to maximize the experience.
- Firstly, learning is all about memory — and about enhancing your memory. The best learners can develop a nearly photographic memory. This is a skill you can absolutely develop.
- Secondly, your confidence is all about “winning,” and creating quick wins — so the more you can “win” and keep winning, the more your confidence will boost.
- Thirdly, as you learn one subject, you’ll get creative breakthroughs in the other areas of your life. This is particularly true if you’ve developed mastery and expertise in a specific area. As you learn a new subject in a completely new learning style, you’ll make all sorts of unique connections in your brain related to your expertise. This is called, “non-linear learning” or “indirect learning,” and it’s perhaps the most effective learning tool.
Albert Einstein, the Beatles, and several of the best innovators and artists got their biggest breakthroughs in an indirect and non-linear manner. For example, Albert Einstein was working in a patent shop, not an academic setting, when he got his insights about time relativity.
The Beatles studied totally different and foreign music which led to their breakthroughs in Rock and Roll.
Grant Achatz, considered one of the top chefs alive, studied abstract art to get inspiration for his cooking.
How to maximize your experience
If you really want to give yourself a brain-workout, here are some things you could do:
- Daily, learn something totally different (it could be an instrument or a language, but it could also be something else… like cooking, travel, public speaking… whatever you want)
- Even though it’s just for fun, set goals
- Gamify the process as much as you can — you can make it a competition with friends
- Spend 15–30 minutes, at least 5 times per week, learning this thing (it will be a very healthy mental break from your “job”)
- Once every week or two when you have time, do an intensive 3-4 hour session when you totally focus-in and geek-out
- While in your deep intensive session, take 5-minute fitness breaks every 30 minutes… like sprinting around your house and doing 50 push-ups
- Drink tons of water
- Have a journal near you and document ALL of the creative insights you get that are either related or unrelated to your core expertise
- Allow yourself to imagine where you could take this small learning hobby. Now that you’re an adult, you can think about and approach this differently than when you were a kid. Rather than going through the motions, you can get creative with this.
For example, rather than just learning the piano to play it, I also want to learn it to more fully develop a photographic memory and to enhance my artistic sides. I want to learn piano because music can literally heal and release suppressed emotions. But I also want to learn to write and compose amazing music because it will teach me about learning, creativity, and the brain.
In other words, you want to have some profound WHY’s behind what you’re learning. But you also want to have specific milestones or achievements to keep yourself going, to gamify the process, to build your confidence, and to make it fun.
Here’s what’s truly amazing …
When you learn new things, you change as a person. Changing is the most healthy thing you can do.
You can’t actually have hope for your future if you don’t believe you can change.
The more you change, and the more you learn how to transform in a positive and intentional direction, the more hope you’ll have for your future.
Hope is a powerful and positive EXPECTATION … not just mere wishing.
So, when you take 15–30 minutes per day, focused exclusively on activating different areas of your brain, you heal yourself and make yourself younger. But you also infuse deep levels of HOPE into your future.
Not only that, but you enhance the areas of your life where you’ve already developed deep mastery. You get to re-experience the beginner’s high and humility. You get a new perspective of yourself and the world.
This pulls you from the rut and apathy of routine. It allows you to see the other areas of your life with fresh eyes. This changes EVERYTHING. As Wayne Dyer once said, “When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.”
You’ll start to infuse hope and healing into your loved ones
Put simply, when you change your cognition, you transform your environment, your psychology, and your biology. You change yourself and you change others — because you interact with them differently.
You become more loving and interested in your relationships. Because your own hope and healing is deepening, you become a more powerful vessel for healing, hope, and transformation others.
You love your family and friends more. You see them in different ways. You notice the small things. You appreciate those small things. You thank them and acknowledge them for those small things.
You smile more — because you’re learning and changing and healing. You’re appreciating this amazing this we call life more.
Your imagination starts to take-off, and you remove limiting models of thinking. Again, non-linear learning is about seeing things from totally different perspectives. So, by practicing, playing, and challenging yourself in new ways, you’ll start to get insights to improve the current approaches you’re taking in your work and in other areas.
Put simply, if you’re not doing this, you’re missing-out HUGE.
This article first appeared on Medium.