In the August issue of Real Simple, there is a feature section on the secrets to aging gracefully. It was fascinating to read snippets of how seven centenarians made it to 100. One of the general principles was to continually learn.
The article stated, “You need to keep learning throughout your life. Ideally, says Devi, you should engage a part of your mind that you don’t rely on. ‘There’s this interesting concept of learned nonuse, which basically means that if a part of the brain isn’t used, it becomes less adapt.'”
The article suggests to “diversify your cognitive portfolio” by trying skills you don’t typically use. So if you’re a writer, build a model airplane. If you’re an athlete, learn an instrument. If you like numbers, take a painting class.
The basic premise here is something that I’ve written about both on BeEmbraced and the Student Launch Pad blog. It comes down to intentionally trying something that you might fail at in order to force yourself into an uncomfortable situation, all in the pursuit of growth.
According to author and researcher Joshua Foer, we need to push beyond the “OK Plateau,” where we learn a skill and become “good enough” to get by. Rather than going on autopilot, Foer says that experts in their field remain alert and keep learning to “operate outside their comfort zone and study themselves failing.”
|Real Simple, August 2013|
“If we want to cultivate expertise, or ‘genius,’ or whatever you want to call it, we need to be able to step outside of ourselves, observe how we are operating, reflect on what could be better, theorize how we could change it, and then test out a solution. The problem is: This is very, very hard for most people.”
Which brings me to my main point of writing this blog post: How can you intentionally begin to learn something new and out of your comfort zone?
I’ve definitely experienced growth from these type of situations: Learning to cook when living by myself for a semester in Chicago; immersing myself in Italian by doing a home-stay study abroad program; and teaching myself WordPress website development by putting my Student Launch Pad curriculum online.
If I hadn’t been in these situations, I would never have learned these specific skills or stretched my mind in new ways, whether creative or technical.
Yet I realized that most of what I learned took place from necessity or specific goals I wanted to accomplish. So, I’m currently thinking, what do I want to intentionally dive into next? I’ve always loved writing poetry but haven’t set aside time for it lately, so this is one area that I’m intentionally working into my schedule.
But what about you:
- Do you have any good ideas of new things I can try or learn?
- What do you plan on intentionally learning about?
If you enjoy this topic, here are other articles that may be of interest:
- What Grit Has to Do with Your Dream Job (Student Launch Pad)
- The Future of Self-Improvement Part II (99U)
- Run Don’t Walk Part II (BeEmbraced)
- The Liberating, Terrifying Realities of Deliberate Practice (Modern Mrs. Darcy)