Learning to Learn: The Path to Real-World Knowledge

Editor’s Note: It’s no secret that we believe everyone should be lifelong learners. That said, we agree that it’s difficult to find the motivation to go beyond the formal education we spend the first 21 years of our lives completing. How, then, can we find the motivation and drive to develop more knowledge when the days of it being blatantly given to us are over?

It may be hard to get into learning again after being out of any type of educational establishment for some time. It’s either because education loses its luster once we’re not being rewarded with letters and pieces of paper, or because we’re so used to being passively taught. We didn’t have to read the whole history (or economics or Philosophy of Man’s Infatuation With Bacon) book. We got an abridged version in class (okay not the bacon one) between daydreams and texting under the desk.

Now we have to TRY and learn. Bummer. If you haven’t noticed, humans like things just coming to them. We invented floors that move and delivery services for any mortal need. Whether it’s understanding, success or pizza, humans like to be delivered things.

#BREAKING. Learning isn’t like that anymore. You got your diploma and went out into the cold world where you are no longer forced to learn – you have to actively seek knowledge.

So how do you do it? How are there people that actually pay to use Lumosity when I’m using the same log-in as 8 of my friends for Netflix (just kidding Netflix)? It’s all about finding the motivation to make time for it and following through on the learning process.

First you need to get a concrete understanding of what it is you want to learn about. We’re all specialized in a certain field. We all have different tastes, likes and desires. Don’t get bogged down trying to learn everything. Laser focus on a subject and make it your obsession. Whether it’s politics or physics or aquarium construction, find time in your busy routine to consume some kind of related media. Remember to stay focused, though. If you want to learn more about space you probably don’t need to know what Justin Beiber has been up to.

Secondly, stop passively consuming knowledge. Challenge yourself to truly understand what you’re being told. If you don’t understand something, use the Internet! It’s a vast textbook where any question can be instantly answered. You should almost be able to track your knowledge by looking back at your recent Google searches. If it’s littered with long tail searches, odd questions, and a bunch of random keywords you hoped would take you to a link you forgot to scoop, you’re doing it right.

Once you’ve got these habits established, the most important duty comes into play – holding yourself accountable. Without professors, grades, or homework to drive you, how can you make sure that you will stay true to your goals and keep up with your quest for knowledge? Some tips include starting a journal of the new information you consume, or coordinating with friends and holding each other accountable. In either of these instances, identify and write down your goals as well as the steps you’d like to see yourself take. Visualizing this in a concrete way will help you remove yourself from the situation and judge what’s working and what isn’t.

No new habit was ever accomplished without making a significant change. Maybe the lack of ability to have new knowledge delivered straight to our brains makes for a good exercise after all.

How do you actively seek new knowledge?