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Focus on Learning: 5 Tactics to Fuel Your Mind

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As a grad school graduate, I’ve done a great deal of thinking about how to satiate my renewed appetite for learning and how to keep it alive going forward.  It was surprising how easily I had forgotten my own love for learning and never want to be in that position again.

Recent brain science reveals useful information about how we fuel creativity, innovation, and make go-forward changes in our lives by changing the way we think as well as the health benefits of keeping our minds active.  All are tied to fueling the mind and learning.  So the question to ask yourself is…

What are you doing today to fuel your mind and keep learning?

Following are five tactics to consider:

1. Read Different Things

Not just the usual books or reading material that you have always enjoyed, but stretch yourself to read unexpected topics and resources.  Subscribing to various blogs can be a great way to expand exposure to different fields and perspectives.  One thing I do is to always have a couple of different books going.  For example, I am currently reading about Abraham Lincoln’s rise to the presidency and how he built his unique cabinet (history, politics, leadership and team-building), A Passage to India (a classic historical fiction novel), a couple of books on complexity science, a book on how to be a successful “free agent” in the emerging world of work, a fun teen oriented fiction novel from a series that my daughter is also reading, and I just finished a book about the history of philosophy.

2. Study Something New

In addition to exposing yourself do different fields and topics, do a deep dive into studying something new.  For example, I became exposed to complexity science earlier this year and have since been studying and applying the concepts in my own work.  I’m now on my second book on the topic, have already made changes in the way I view my work as a result of the learnings, speak about and share my learnings with others, and will be bringing the topic to a professional development group that I lead later this month.

Share Your Learnings

We’ve all heard the expression that the best way to learn is to teach and many of us know this to be so true.  One of the best ways to solidify your learning is to share it with others.  This may show up as conversations with friends and colleagues or it might be so formal as a written case study, a proposal, or a presentation to others.  Don’t limit yourself to how you share your learnings, be open to unexpected possibilities.  When we share that which we are in the midst of learning, our eagerness, excitement, and passion show up and others are drawn-in by it – it helps them to learn as well!

Seek and Engage with Others

Be open to, and purposeful, in seeking out other people who have expertise in topics of interest, work in completely different fields from you, and also people who are as interested in learning as you are.  One of the things that I do is have a group of people who I call my “creative colleagues”.  These are the people who I know I can call up and bounce ideas around with; people who will generate and give me ideas and who are willing to explore ideas with excitement.  I’ve also started identifying people who are eclectic and passionate about learning – these people expand my own thinking and connect unexpected things to my current learning and thinking.  They also make great additions to any party!

Spend a Learning Budget

Yes, I do recommend that you set a budget for learning, but you must take the next step to actually spend that budget as well.  Take a class, go to a conference, join a professional development group, take a trip to an unusual place, buy several books each year (and read them – maybe on that trip).  I happen to be one of those people who is very frugal.  Until I decided to go to grad school a few years back, I spent very little to none of my own money on learning and development; only relying on opportunities offered by my employer.  Now, as a graduate and as an independent consultant, I have to step outside of my natural tendencies to invest in myself.  As a voracious reader, I have a stack of inspiring books that I’m working my way through, I’m saving up for a week-long program put on by respected higher-ed institutions that I am extremely excited about, and I recently paid for a local writing conference that I hope will inspire me in a number of ways.

There are so many ways to keep learning and, for many of us, we must be purposeful and proactive in continuing our own learning.  Set your budget, build a plan, and do it!  You may even share with a family member, friend, or colleague that you are trying to do more learning and ask them to help hold you accountable.  Whatever you do, just start by taking one simple step this week.  You and all those around you will reap the rewards of your efforts!

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