6 Tips for Learning Something New

Sep 26, 2019 by

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But does that also mean our brains reach a certain point where learning something new becomes, well, impossible? Not necessarily. 

It’s never too late to learn something new, but it sure does get harder as you age. The ideal time to learn a new language or grammar is before the age of five. However, new research shows that young adults under the age of 18 can also pick-up new concepts and skills with relative ease. If you’re an older adult, a few of these tips and tricks can also help you grasp a new subject without much trouble. 

Check them out!

1. Try Different Approaches to Learning

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Don’t back yourself into an educational corner. Experiment with different learning styles and approaches. Start with your comfort zone. Are you a more visual learner or do you prefer reading text and absorbing information that way? Discovering how you learn best is the first step for tackling new information. If you’re an auditory learner, listen to books on tape or watch video tutorials on how things work. From here, expand to different methods like hands-on experimentation. You’d be surprised how much you can learn when you approach a certain topic from various angles. Using one method might uncover information you missed before or help drive home a certain concept you previously struggled with. Do you normally prefer a classroom learning environment? Why not experiment with the dynamics that online coursework have to offer? E-learning is an effective way to approach the learning process.

2. Create a Personal Connection

It’s only human nature that we care most about the things that directly affect us or that we are emotionally connected to. If the topic you want to learn has nothing to do with your personal life or interests, you have two choices: move on to something else (if you have that option) or find a way to make the topic relevant to your life. If you’re an adult trying to learn something new for pleasure, you shouldn’t encounter this issue. Obviously, you wouldn’t choose a topic that didn’t interest and excite you. This hurdle is felt more often by high school or college students “forced” to take specific courses to fulfill a certain requirement. If this is the case, try examining the subject from various angles and find a way in. Pinpoint the one thing that interests you or connects to you in some way. This will make it much easier to make mental connections and successfully absorb the information. 

3. Teach What You Learn

One of the best ways to reinforce your own knowledge is to teach it to someone else. Even if you’re not a teacher by trade, find a willing ear and mind to bestow your newfound knowledge on. Friends and family are perfect for this! Why does this method work so well? Because it brings you back to the basics. When you’re introducing a new subject to someone who’s unfamiliar with it, you start from the bottom, up. You lay down the foundation, starting with the simple concepts and progressing from there. This is a great review for yourself. It may also bring to light certain areas you need to brush-up on or review yourself. When you’re explaining something to someone else, they’ll likely ask questions different from those you ask yourself. Now, you’ll approach the subject from a different viewpoint. You may touch on new areas you never investigated before. Critical thinking is an important part of the learning process. Brainstorming and exchanging ideas with others is the perfect way to delve deeper into a particular subject. 

4. Be Patient with Yourself

Let’s face it — you’re not going to learn a new skill or master a new subject overnight. It could take weeks, months, or even years to fully grasp what you’re learning. It also depends on how in- depth you plan on getting and how complicated the subject matter is. So, be patient with yourself. If the subject becomes too difficult, challenging, or just plain frustrating, move onto something else. This isn’t a failure. After all, if you’ve made the decision to expand your educational horizons for personal growth, there’s no requirements saying you have to forge on. If the subject matter is no longer fun or interesting, find one that is!

5. Take Breaks

Banging your head against the wall isn’t going to get you anywhere. When you reach a roadblock in your learning process, step back and take a break. Sometimes, our minds are simply on overload. Trying to repeatedly cram the same information in will only lead to frustration. You need a calm, clear head to properly absorb and process new information. It’s okay to take breaks. In fact, it’s encouraged! After a nice walk outside, coffee break, lunch with a friend, or even a nap, chances are you’ll come back with a newfound sense of calm and eagerness to learn. Your mind will be more open to new ideas and concepts and you’ll feel much less overwhelmed. Avoid procrastination though, which brings its own set of hurdles. If you procrastinate too much, it may be impossible for you to take a break and still achieve your goals, taking the fun out of the learning process. 

6. Find a Mentor or Tutor

Finding a specialist or expert in your field of study is one of the best ways to fast-track to success. If you don’t learn well in large group settings, try a one-on-one approach. Mentors are generally willing to help out for free, if you’re willing to put in the work. Check your local libraries or nearby establishments that specialize in what it is you’re trying to learn. Ask if you can volunteer your time there, shadow someone, or even interview them. People are an untapped resource of invaluable information. A tutor, on the other hand, will probably charge you an hourly fee. But depending on the purpose of your new learning adventure and the type of learner you are, chances are it’ll be well-worth the investment. 

People are curious by nature – always wanting to discover and learn new things. While this innate curiosity might fade with time, it’s never too late to learn something new. And these tips can help!

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