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.
School and other formal education universally don’t pay much attention to each student’s individual learning style, and that’s why many people might struggle with this traditional means of learning. For some, listening to a lecture talk for over an hour while frantically scribbling notes and thoughts into a textbook doesn’t work for them, instead needing a different approach that most institutions don’t offer.
Thankfully, when you start to learn independently and rely on yourself for education, you are in a better position to utilize your own learning style and optimize your studying to suit your needs. For this reason, so many people are now enrolling in online degrees and courses as opposed to traditional courses offered at a campus. This is because online courses allow the students to learn at their own pace and use their own resources, structuring their learning in a way that suits them. Students can also choose from so many respected online courses, allowing them to get the education they need to enter many roles. One of the best degrees for those that want to learn about nursing and get a career within medicine is one you can earn with Wilkes University. Look into the Wilkes Phd in Nursing to get started.
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:
A visual learner is one that learns best via visual prompts. This means that adding presentations and videos to lectures can enhance the experience for visual learners. Furthermore, these types of learners will better understand how to do something through a demonstration than they would verbal instructions. Another thing that will actively help a visual learner is making colorful and pretty notes, which will help it stick within their memory.
An aural learner is one that learns best through listening, meaning that traditional learning environments are best suited to them. An aural learner can also enhance their learning experience by listening to podcasts, talks, and speeches. An aural learner may not enjoy taking notes, as this can distract them from tuning into the information they’re trying to understand.
A verbal learner is one that finds that talking can help them better engage with a subject. This means things such as asking them various questions to answer as well as open discussions and discourse can really help a verbal learner better understand. They may also enjoy creating and giving presentations to others, as sharing information can help them better understand and digest it.
A physical learner learns best by doing and being actively involved in the experience. This means things like partaking in science experiments can help them better understand it. Furthermore, acting and roleplay can also help with their learning. A physical learner is one that will always want a go at doing something to cement their understanding, so if you’re trying to teach a physical learner a skill, such as how to knit, they will have a better experience by instructing them with the needles in their own hands, rather than showing them how to do it.
A logical learner understands information and theory by using order, steps, and logic. These learners understand things best with patterns to follow or a simple rule that can aid their understanding. These types of learns are usually best with numbers and crave a more structured, systematic approach that is organized, where one topic naturally leads into another, building off what they have already learned.
The final type of learner is a social one. This is where they learn best when studying with others and may struggle to concentrate through isolation. Things such as group projects and team sports suit these learners best, as they prefer to be within a collective unit when studying and learning.
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. Furthermore, without a good night’s sleep, you won’t be able to function properly or as optimal as you would want to. This means that you will struggle to concentrate and engage with what you’re trying to learn, and you may also find that your mind will wander. You will also lack the critical energy you will need to stay enthusiastic about your work. It’s best that you aim to get a solid 7 hours minimum a night to ensure that you can learn to the best of your ability.
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. On the contrary, sugary food or processed meats can really affect how your mind functions and affect your energy.
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.
A common method of improving memory is associating the information with familiar things to you. For example, when trying to remember a list of items, it’s a good idea to visualize your house and how you would walk through your house from when you wake up to when you leave for work or school. Then at each key area of the home, try to associate that area to a piece of information in a sequence.
So, for example, if you’re trying to learn the Arabic alphabet, try and visualize the first letter being in your bed, then the second letter could be in your mirror as you brush your hair, then the next could be in your wardrobe, another could be in your cup of coffee, and so on. It may sound weird at first, but after time, if you’re struggling to remember a key letter, by thinking back to your home, something that you know like the back of your hand, then by association, you should be able to come up with the letters you need more easily.
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.
Learning is fundamental to life and will be something that you do until the day you die. This means that to be the best human you can be, you need to embrace learning and do what you can to make it an easier and more enjoyable experience.
This means taking learning into your own hands by figuring out what type of learner you are and then tailoring your approach to that type. It also means doing what you can to sharpen your mind and make it perform at its best, as an unhealthy brain will lead to a mind that will struggle to retain information and develop academically. Finally, to ensure that you’re always motivated to learn, be sure to set goals in what you want to understand and be able to do. These could be skills that would be useful in your everyday life or useless, arbitrary facts that you simply have an interest in. Whatever you want to learn, have a goal so that you can measure your intellectual progress against it.
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