Learning How To Learn

One of my favourite subjects in high-school was Math. I can definitely give some credit to our incredible math teacher at the time; Mr. Williams. He was always light-hearted and made the process of learning rather enjoyable.

Considering I grew up in Saudi Arabia as an expat, he was one of the few South Africans that I could relate to at the time. I also ended up becoming great friends with his sons, when I moved to Cape Town to study after high-school.

The reason why I’m starting with that flashback, is because there’s a phrase Mr. Williams used to always scream at us:

“You have to learn how to learn!”

Please keep in mind that this was conveyed in a thick Capetonian accent, which we all found absolutely hilarious at the time. As I started growing up and learning more, I realized that this man was well ahead of the game. We learn everything there is to know in school, except, the most important skill; which is learning how to learn.

I want to dive into the concept of being a life-long learner, something that I always gained tremendous insight into after being part of the 20 Life Learners group. A lot of the topics that I cover here will be from the book ‘Limitless’ by Jim Kwik. It’s absolutely remarkable and I highly recommend you give it a read for yourself.

Why is learning so important?

It comes down to why. The purpose. The reason why we learn in the first place. As always, it usually has something to do with service. With leaving the world (or even just your environment) in a slightly better condition compared to when you found it.

This question is rather difficult to answer. It’s specific to each individual really. Reflect on the concept of learning in general, and why you think it’s important to you. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.

For me, learning is about continuously improving. It’s about becoming better at a certain skill, subject or experience. It makes life a little easier and more fulfilling. It’s also about sharing the knowledge with other people. With the intention to help them improve and make their own life easier.

“Aspire to Inspire”

That motto came about in a phase of my life when I felt kind of clueless. I didn’t really know what to do with my time. I decided to divert my energy into something a little more useful than just playing games or spending time with friends. I realized that by increasing my own knowledge (through learning), I was able to help others more.

Reading is the ultimate form of learning. Just reminding you of why it’s so important to build that habit as soon as you can. I’ve written a post previously on how to read faster and more effectively.

The system

I’m not sure about you, but most of the people I know study to pass. Educational institutes are run more like businesses now than anything else. It’s about making as much profit as you can from every student. Through all the chaos (and capitalism I suppose), we lost the essence of what learning is all about.

We no longer worry about whether we’re maximizing our potential or chasing our passions. It’s about passing the exam. Cramming the night before for your assignment. Submitting when you know you’ve put it enough to pass. In that process, what are we really learning?

Study to learn and to create deep knowledge, not just to pass an exam or assignment.

I’ll tell you why I really dislike the concept of cramming the night before, you don’t actually retain any of the information. It doesn’t get the chance to enter your long-term memory because your intention was not to learn, but rather to just pass.

Being intentional with your learning

An important consideration moving forward is to be intentional with your actions, especially when it comes to learning. Our intentions are the driving force behind our behaviours.

Next time you’re studying for anything at all, keep in mind how the knowledge you’re gaining is actually going to benefit those around you. Realize that you’re going to make an impact, and it’s up to you to make sure it’s something positive.

It can be tempting to fall prey to the way our assignments are marked and just try to cram. But that’s not the point. Even if you don’t enjoy what you’re currently studying, find something else in your free time that you can learn with passion. That you can learn intentionally. That you can learn to be of service.

Mark Twain said it wonderfully, as I’ve previously quoted:

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

Don’t ever limit yourself. You’re not born ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’. It’s all about the processes you use and the way you train yourself. You have the capacity to grow. To expand beyond your limiting beliefs. To learn faster and more efficiently than ever before. You’re capable of being a superhero.

Just use your brain more. It’s like a muscle, the more you train it, the stronger it becomes. You have so much potential within you. Keep trying. Keep pushing. Don’t give up when it gets tough. Embrace your growth mindset and flourish in discomfort. It’s the only way to grow. You got this.

What Is Learning All About?

Are you someone who is thirsty to learn and improve on a regular basis? What does learning even mean? In what aspects of our lives are we actually ‘learning’? Are some people naturally better at it than others?

Today’s post will be about knowledge, wisdom, intelligence and personal growth. I’d like to dive into the different areas of learning and how we can maintain a holistic growth mindset.

Knowledge

This is a little bit tricky to dive into because it encompasses so much. Knowledge is essentially your level of understanding of any topic or skill. It’s your awareness based on what you’ve learned or been exposed to.

When we gain knowledge, we’re essentially equipping ourselves to better deal with future problems. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying: “Knowledge is power”. But that’s not true unless you consciously apply that knowledge.

I’d like to divide learning into 3 categories:

  • Theoretical
  • Practical
  • Observational

Each type of learning works more effectively for different people, based on their nature and nurture. Knowledge can be acquired through any of those learning types. We can learn the theory behind complex concepts, apply that theory practically, or observe other people performing the practice.

Understanding what type works best for you will assist you in your journey to becoming a life-long learner. It may even be a combination of all 3.

Wisdom

“Wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one’s own advice.”

That quote speaks accurately about how to understand what wisdom is all about. My personal understanding of wisdom is learning from mistakes (it can be your mistakes or just observing others) and walking the talk.

How can we learn to be wiser? Simple really, just reflect more often. I spoke thoroughly about that in my previous post. Look back at how far you’ve come. Write down the important lessons you’ve gained. Read more books and write down more quotes.

Another fantastic way to gain wisdom is by speaking to people who are older than you or have more experience than you. Nothing is more efficient than learning life lessons from people who’ve been through similar experiences to you. It’ll also make your conversations more interesting.

Intelligence

Learning about intelligence has profoundly changed my life. The simple idea that we’re not ‘fixed’ means that we have so much potential for growth. There are also several types of intelligence and it’s quite unfair to judge people based on one metric.

This infographic shows the 9 potential types of intelligence:

I won’t go into too much detail here, I just want you to appreciate how incredibly diverse intelligence can be. The schooling system and academics barely make up 11% of what’s out there.

If you feel like you’re not intelligent, maybe you just haven’t explored them all. We’re all incredibly gifted and have so much to offer the world.

Keep a growth mindset and deeply appreciate how malleable we truly are. The more effort and energy we put in, the better we become.

Who you are today is a result of your previous efforts. Who you will become tomorrow, is a result of the effort you put in today.

Personal Growth

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to personal growth and self-development. I view it as being a fundamental aspect of human growth. By learning about yourself, how you need to improve, what’s working for you and what isn’t, you’ll be better equipped to serve the world around you.

Personal growth is also a commitment to learning in general. It’s integrating your knowledge, wisdom and intelligence, and striving to continuously learn from your mistakes.

The most important relationship you have is with yourself (after God of course). Taking care of yourself can be a means of you contributing to the world.

The key point I want you to take from this post is that we’re all wired differently. There are so many different ways and things for us to learn in life. Don’t compare yourself to other people who have spent more time in a certain category of intelligence. Focus on your objectives as best as you can and lift up other people with you along the way.

Life is a journey of learning. Keep trying your best, especially when it gets tough. You’re so much more capable than you give yourself credit. You got this. I believe in you.

Make Stress Your Friend #2

Flight or Fight!? How often do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or relentlessly chasing deadlines as if your life depended on it? Let’s talk about why stress has low-key been the reason we’re achieving our goals and why we need to form a healthier relationship with it. I’ve talked about this before in the first post on make stress your friend.

Today, I’ll dive a little deeper and refresh our memory on this. I’ll speak about what stress is, how it’s released, why we need to manage it and how we can acquaint ourselves to it. Nature has a remarkable way of pushing evolution forward, it’s our responsibility to learn how these innate responses affect us.

What is the stress response?

The flight or fight response is part of the sympathetic nervous system’s reaction to emergencies that you experience. This is what happens when you’re being chased by a lion, have an approaching assignment deadline or feeling sickly. The subconscious response is both physical and emotional, to optimize your reaction to the given situation.

This can work for you or against you, depending on how often you’re confronted with situations that trigger this response. The neural connections formed over the past several millennia don’t adapt quickly enough to our modern-day problems. We now experience the same stress response for much simpler issues; like not getting enough likes/followers on IG, being subtweeted or even worrying about your feed, which could start getting unhealthy.

Chronic stress is when you’re repeatedly exposed to situations that trigger the release of stress hormones in your body. This can be detrimental to your health for several reasons. Let’s discuss how the body releases those hormones and why we need to manage them adequately.

How is stress released?

Once you start thinking about all those deadlines (or when you’re faced with highly stressful encounters), how does the body react?

There’s quite a complicated process that goes on in your brain, specifically within the hypothalamus. Here’s a brief overview of what happens:

  • Epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol are released.
  • Heart rate increases.
  • Breathing intensifies.
  • Blood sugar is released, increasing energy.
  • You become much more alert and vigilant.

This process is programmed into our subconscious mind and has proven to be an invaluable evolutionary asset. But what happens when the response becomes chronic?

https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/b/stress-response-system-vector-illustration-diagram-nerve-impulses-scheme-educational-medical-information-expressive-cartoon-110617799.jpg

Why we need to manage our levels of stress

Understanding the physiological response is critical in being able to make better decisions for your own mental well-being. The constant surge of epinephrine can become very damaging after a prolonged period of time. It damages your blood vessels and arteries, which increases your blood pressure and chances of having a heart attack/stroke.

The constant release of cortisol also increases your appetite and decreases the activity in your digestive system, since your body is using up the energy reserves. This is probably the reason why people often ‘stress-eat’ and indulge in junk food when they’re feeling overly stressed.

Thankfully, there are ways for us to combat these issues and maintain a healthy outlook on the stress response.

How can we become allies with stress?

  • Acceptance
  • Perspective
  • Breathe
  • Journal
  • Exercise or go for a walk
  • Speak to someone

Acceptance is always the first key when tackling a problem. Acknowledge and be honest with yourself about it. If you’re someone who tends to get stressed more than is necessary, notice the changes that happen in your body and don’t judge yourself for it. It’s part of your evolution.

The perspective you should embrace is that of kindness. Look at stress through a positive lens and that will change your outlook on it. It’s there to help you adapt, to effectively deal with changes, to energize you, to boost your body and to get you to focus. It’s also what motivates you to get off the couch and get some work done.

Breathe. This is honestly one of the best ways to calm your body down. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, focus on taking in deep conscious breaths to the bottom of your abdomen. Don’t underestimate how effective this simple technique is. It will help ground you.

Here I am speaking about journalling yet again, what a surprise… It serves as an incredible outlet for you to let out emotions and clear your mind. This will help you assess the problem much more realistically and will reduce the chances of you lashing it out on others.

Exercise or go for a walk – preferably in nature. Sometimes a healthy distraction is all you need to get a grip on your thought patterns. Releasing the energy through physical exertion will certainly help calm your mind and body. Going for a walk in nature is particularly useful to gain a more philosophical outlook on the problem(s) at hand.

The last recommendation is to simply speak to someone. If you have someone that you can confide in and discuss your issues with, raise it up with them. Be wary of the energy you bring to the table, you don’t want to make them feel overwhelmed either. A great approach is to ask:

“Are you in the right emotional state to listen to what’s been stressing me out?”

Don’t bottle things up, just be considerate to others. If you’re struggling with chronic stress and feel like it might burden those you care about, consider therapy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You’re just speaking to someone who can guide your thought patterns into something a little healthier.

I know stress is not easy to manage and it can become very overwhelming when you have several responsibilities. Keep in mind that this is all part of your journey and that it’s all contributing to your growth. Focus on having a growth mindset, find tactics to keep you grounded and always remember to breathe. Stay present, you got this.