What is Learning How To Learn? 7 Strategies to Increase Your Capacity For Learning
Sarah Mae (SMae) |
What is learning how to learn? It’s the ability, confidence, and willingness to acquire new skills. I like to call it Learning Literacy, which includes doing things to intentionally increase your capacity for learning.
You see, the education system has traditionally done an excellent job of teaching WHAT to learn, but very few adults were taught the HOW.
When was the last time you did something to intentionally increase your capacity for learning?
If you’re like most people, you learned some study skills like reading, writing, and maybe notetaking in elementary school and haven’t thought much about it since.
In this post, I’m discussing Learning Literacy as an Essential Skill, 3 ways to support neuroplasticity and brain performance, as well as 7 strategies to increase your capacity for learning.
Why Increase Your Capacity for Learning?
Using your intelligence is the key to creating and enjoying your ideal life.
Continuous learning determines how you view the world and conduct yourself within it. Many of today’s careers won’t exist in the next couple of decades and ones we haven’t even imagined yet will take their place. Your capacity for learning will determine how much time and energy you need to stay on top of this rapidly changing world and keep your skills relevant in support of your goals.
Additionally, stimulating your brain keeps your mind healthy which allows you to think rationally, solve problems, make better decisions, and pursue your goals with confidence.
What Determines Your Capacity for Learning?
Is Intelligence Genetic or Learned?
For most of history, western scientists believed that intelligence, and with it our capacity for learning, was fixed.
The belief was intelligence is genetic, determined at birth, and there is nothing you can do to improve it. They also held the understanding that our brains become mature at the age of 25 and neuroplasticity stops.
Thankfully, a lot has changed in the last couple of decades. While it’s true that children’s brains are generally more malleable, we now know that neuroplasticity does not end, and your brain is capable of change throughout your entire life.
This means that it truly is NEVER TOO LATE to start something new.
While your adult brain is fully capable of learning and change, we all know that nothing in life is guaranteed. Your brain needs oxygen and stimulation to stay healthy and sharp.
3 Ways to Support Neuroplasticity & Brain Performance
1) Move Your Body
Physical exercise is important for getting oxygen to the brain, which means you need to do things that intentionally increase your movement each day. Go for a walk, take the stairs, and/or park on the other side of the parking lot.
2) Get Adequate Sleep
Getting enough sleep improves attention and concentration, which are a prerequisite for most learning. Sleep also supports decision-making, memory, problem-solving, creativity, and emotional processing.
3) Learn New Things
Learning new things stimulates the brain. This can be reading up on different topics, or just learning to do your daily routines differently. While it can be enticing to get into routines and stay there, something as simple as learning to brush your teeth with the opposite hand will keep your brain sharp and improve brain performance.
7 Strategies to Increase Your Capacity for Learning
1) Develop a Growth Mindset
What we believe matters.
A growth mindset means you believe you can improve and change.
If you have a fixed mindset and believe you CAN’T learn, then it truly doesn’t matter what the science says you’re going to struggle to learn.
Suggested reading: Growth Mindset: 3 Ways to Develop This Essential Skill and Learn How to Accept Yourself, By Carol Dweck
2) Understand Your PREFERRED Learning Style
We don’t all like to learn the same way. Some people prefer to listen to an audiobook, while others prefer to see someone talk in person.
There are four main learning styles:
- Visual: You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
- Verbal: You prefer using written and spoken words.
- Auditory: You prefer using sound and music.
- Kinesthetic: You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
You may also prefer to learn alone or in groups. I say prefer because we are all equally capable of excelling in any learning style we choose.
Regardless of what you prefer, it’s important to understand what works for you, both so that you can use it to your advantage AND so that you can challenge yourself to try new styles and keep your brain sharp.
3) Get Curious & Ask Questions
If you’re anything like me, when you were in school you thought it was the teacher’s responsibility to make you learn. I am embarrassed to say that I thought this until late in my first undergraduate degree.
I just wanted my teachers to teach me the facts that I needed to know so I could write the test and move on to the next thing. Then I had an amazing Canadian history teacher who turned the traditional way of teaching on its head. She had a new guest lecturer every week for eight weeks and each speaker presented what they thought was the most significant moment in Candian history. They were all professors and researchers on their chosen topic, and they were all very convincing. I learned then that history, learning, and everything else is subjective.
This means you can’t take anything people say as objective truth, you need to ask questions and corroborate sources.
Furthermore, the more curious you get, the more questions you’ll have, and the more engaged you’ll be in learning whatever it is you’re trying to learn.
4) Improve Your Focus
Have you ever tried to focus on one spot or thought for a long time? If so, then it’s likely that your thoughts began to drift away. This is being distracted, meaning you’ve been on track with your focus, and then you fell off that track and became dis-track-ted.
Believe it or not, just like everything else, the ability to focus is a skill that you can improve! There are many ways to do this, one of the best is to practice mindfulness.
Another way is to focus on a dot on the wall or a yantra, which is a sacred/mystical diagram. A well-known one is the Sri Yantra below. Try to softly gaze at it for 1 minute, increasing to 10 minutes as it gets easier. When you notice your mind wandering, just bring your gaze back. Don’t give up when you notice your mind wandering, this is normal! If your mind didn’t wander you wouldn’t need to practice.
As an additional bonus, paying attention stimulates your brain, which supports neuroplasticity and brain performance! Double win!
5) Use Memory Techniques to Remember More
Do you forget things easily? You’re not alone, most students I’ve worked with have one memory technique, repetition, which is very ineffective.
My favourite is the Memory Palace, where you associate things you want to remember with parts of a location you’re very familiar with, such as in your house, your body, or your car.
For example, you would associate each thing that you want to remember with a specific space in your home. Say you were trying to remember the habit loop, you could put the cue on your kitchen right switch, the craving on your fridge, the response on your oven, and the reward on the plates in your cupboard.
You want to use as many of your senses as possible to associate the items with the location in your mind. Associating items within your mind with a real physical space helps your brain file away important things for easy access when you want to remember them.
Here is a great article on different memory techniques: How to Remember Things: 21 Memory Techniques
I also love this Jim Kwik podcast episode: A Fast & Fun Way to Recall Lots of Information
6) Increase Your Reading Speed
When was the last time you did something to improve your reading? If you’re like most people, probably elementary school.
The problem is, when you stop being taught how to read while you’re still sounding out words in your head, you’re going to struggle to read quickly as an adult.
This doesn’t mean you can’t speed read, it just means you haven’t learned how yet. You can learn any skill with effort and practice, including how to speed read.
But is this skill worth the effort? How would being able to speed read improve your life?
It will allow you to read more, and get through all those books gaining dust on your shelf. It decreases eye strain and stimulates your brain, which actually helps you retain more information because it isn’t bored that you’re reading so slow. It also increases productivity and looks great on your resume!
7) Hone Your Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is using evidence, facts, and data to analyze situations or issues. It isn’t subjective, it’s objective, meaning that it is not influenced by your biases, personal feelings, or opinions.
One important way to improve yourself is to understand logical fallacies. Were you taught these in school? I certainly was not!
A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning that sometimes sounds impressive but actually proves nothing. Once you know them, you’ll spot them being used on social media all the time, often accidentally. Politicians and the media sometimes use them to convince us of something, hoping you won’t notice.
Here is a great site to help you learn them: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/
And here is a fun quiz from the School of Thought to check your understanding: Critical Thinking Quiz
Understanding common logical fallacies can help you identify poor arguments, as well as improve your own argumentation skills.
My Fav Books on Learning Literacy
Interested in reading more? Here are my 3 favourite books on Learning Literacy!
*note that clicking on a book cover will take you to my Amazon affiliate account, where I will get a small kickback if you purchase. I never recommend any books that I have not read and found helpful in my life.
I love talking about the books I have read, so hit me up when you’ve read any of these and let me know your thoughts! Email or Instagram DMs are the best way to reach me.
Learning Literacy and enhancing your intelligence is an essential skill for creating your best life. By ensuring that get oxygen to your brain and quality sleep, and stay a lifelong learner, you’re supporting neuroplasticity and your brain’s performance will improve.
You can expand your capacity for learning by developing a growth mindset, understanding your preferred learning style, getting curious and asking questions, improving your focus, using memory techniques, increasing your reading speed, and honing your critical thinking skills.
Above all, if you want to live a life of your OWN design, rather than one based on someone else’s agenda, your intellect is your greatest resource.
Never let anyone tell you you’re not smart enough, and never stop learning.
P.S. I still have some spots in my signature 1-1 coaching program, Route to Rise, where I will help you develop the skills you weren’t taught in school and become the person you aspire to be, with the healthy habits, motivation, and clarity needed to RISE to your Peak Potential and live the life you’ve always wanted. Find out more and book a clarity call HERE.