Whether we’re 9 months or 99 years old, we can all learn new things that will improve our lives. One of my favorite quotes is by historian Will Durant: “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Translation: the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know. But that fact shouldn’t discourage us. The enjoyment of learning is mostly in the process, not simply arriving at a knowledgeable destination.
Amazing things can happen in our minds, relationships, careers, and education if we simply get into the habit of asking ourselves (and the people around us), “What did you learn today?”
Here’s an idea of what can happen as we ask (and answer) that question at least once every day:
- We will feel more empowered, recognizing that “education is the door to economic opportunity,” and that learning is an avenue of escape from many self-defeating habits and beliefs.
- No single day can be considered a waste or a failure if you learned something new that day.
- We’ll have great conversation starters which open up lines of communication in our relationships, especially with our children.
- We will increase our mental flexibility; become more agile to adapt to our changing world and circumstances.
- We will lose all those unwanted pounds on our waistlines. OK, that might be pushing it.
The reassuring thing about asking ourselves what we learned today, is that we will always have an answer! This is especially true because so much of learning is relearning. With just a little thought and contemplation, we can extract some type of lesson from what we experience today.
One of the lessons I learned recently can be summed up in the words, “Today’s not over.” There have been a few days lately, where my schedule got entirely derailed by some unexpected event, illness, or a new work assignment. When late afternoon or early evening rolled around, I felt the day had been misspent. But I thought, “Today’s not over!” After helping with dinner and kids’ bedtime routine, I redoubled my efforts to write or produce something I had planned on doing earlier that day. Reminding myself of this idea has helped me salvage the remaining usable hours each day and feel more satisfied that I made some progress towards my goals.
These types of gems which improve our lives and productivity are available for the taking every day.
Yes, you will always have an answer to the question, “What did you learn today?” A few practices can make answering that question easier and more natural. Here are a few suggestions to ensure you are actively learning all the time:
How to Learn Every Day
- Keep a learning journal.
There are all sorts of mental and psychological benefits to keeping a journal, but if you’re like me, you got tired of being narcissistic and recounting trivial things when trying to keep a journal. The only approach that kept journal writing sustainable has been to write out the lessons I learned that day.
- If someone uses a word you don’t know the definition to, look it up.
This is a priceless habit and especially easy with mobile devices and Internet connections. It will increase your vocabulary and comprehension of what other people are trying to communicate.
- Ask someone to explain something to you at least once, every day.
Remember the Chinese proverb, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not, is a fool forever.” Will Rogers said, “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” We can learn something from anyone. Dismiss your apprehension about asking people for explanations with the thought that asking is actually a compliment. Asking for explanations contains inherent recognition of others’ experience, knowledge, and perspective.
- Read for 30 minutes a day, at a minimum.
Fiction is fine. Write short summaries and notes, using your own words, in the margins of the newspaper, magazines, or books you read. Write a summary of the article or book in your learning journal. Or, you can…
- Re-teach or share something you learned each day.
Social media sites are a great tool to share some idea or lesson you learned each day. Tell friends that you’re trying to learn something new every day and want to share what you learned with them. Ask them to hold you accountable for that commitment.
How have you made a habit of learning every day? How has a commitment to lifelong learning improved your self-confidence, your relationships, or your work? Help the rest of us out by sharing your thoughts in the comment area down below.