Famous American author Mark Twain once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young.”
What’s interesting about this quote, and many others from Mark Twain about learning, is that the author didn’t go to college. In fact, he dropped out of school in fifth grade to work as an apprentice to a printer. Today, he’s recognized as one of the most famous authors and lecturers of all time. We can learn a lot from Mr. Twain’s quotes about lifelong learning and its importance.
Lifelong learning isn’t just about having a formal education. The “school of life” is an endless wealth of knowledge just waiting to be grasped. Thankfully, there are different strategies you can use to continue learning for the rest of your life, so you never become stagnant, and according to Mr. Twain, you’ll keep your mind young.
Let’s look at a few of those strategies and how you can implement them into your own life to consistently learn and grow.
1. Understand Your Learning Style
Everyone learns differently, and at different paces. Learning at your own pace is called asynchronous learning, and it’s an important concept to grasp if you want to keep learning new things throughout your life. Asynchronous learning allows you to pick up on things in a way that works best for you, so you don’t feel forced into understanding loads of information right away.
When you’re able to learn at your own pace, you’re more likely to take in continuous information and understand it.
It’s also important to understand your individual learning style as you go throughout life. There are several different types of learning styles, including:
Everyone learns differently, and one style isn’t necessarily better than another. If you give two people the same piece of information, how it’s presented to them can have a strong impact on what they remember and how well it sinks in. For example, if you tell them something verbally, an aural learner might have a better understanding than a logical or physical learner. Some people are even multi-modal learners who use more than one learning style to digest information. Understanding more about your style can help you to put yourself in situations to foster it.
2. Taking Care of Your Body to Sharpen Your Mind
There is an incredibly strong connection between your body and mind. While you absolutely need to “exercise” your mind, you can also keep it sharp by keeping yourself physically healthy and active. Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
You can’t keep learning if you’re not properly taking care of yourself. It’s no one else’s responsibility but your own to treat your body with respect. Doing so can actually improve your focus, cognitive function, and memory.
So, what can you do physically to give your brain a boost?
First, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Your body sorts out and stores memories while you sleep, and not getting enough of it can keep your brain from storing new information properly.
It’s also important to make sure to exercise and eat right to boost brain function. Healthy fats and dark, leafy vegetables have been shown to improve brain function, and regular exercise can help to increase the size of the hippocampus. That is the part of the brain responsible for verbal memory.
You can also “exercise” your mind and improve your memory with things like mnemonics. Mnemonic devices can be acronyms, rhyming phrases, groupings of numbers, or visualizations that help you to remember certain things. You can use them to remember anything from people’s names to what’s on your grocery list for the week, and using them regularly can help to keep your mind and memories sharper.
3. Set Learning Goals for Life
One of the best ways to keep yourself motivated for lifelong learning is to write down some of the things you’d like to learn. Then, find the resources that can help you accomplish those goals. If you want to break into a specific career or industry, you may not necessarily have to go to college to learn the right skills.
Consider whether what you really want to do requires a college degree or not. In many cases, you can learn what you need from your local library or by always having a book in hand. Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” While Lincoln did go to college for a legal degree, it’s easy to argue that much of what he’s known for today happened by learning through experience, even when he was faced with impossibly demanding situations.
Lincoln’s quote can also motivate you to put your learned skills into practice. If you do have goals in mind, you’ll continue to learn more about them when you start doing them. You can read a thousand books on how to fix a car, but you’ll likely end up learning more when you get under the hood and look at the engine, yourself.
Continuous lifelong learning is about immersing yourself in as much knowledge as possible. That knowledge will come from books, other people, and personal experiences. You don’t have to follow a specific educational path in order to be a lifelong learner. Instead, you have to have a willingness to keep growing and expanding your mind. If you’re able to do that, as Mark Twain suggested, you’ll be able to keep your mind young.
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