How to Learn a New Skill and Understand More

What have you always wanted to learn? Maybe you want to learn to play a musical instrument, or you’re trying to learn about online marketing, a new language, or home renovation.

No matter what it is, people can learn anything if they’re willing to put in the time, energy, and focus to really engage in that area of growth. With unlimited access to all sorts of information and resources, there is vast opportunity to learn.

It may feel like the more we learn the better off we’ll be, or the more we know the more we can do. Though it can very overwhelming and segmented without narrowing down a focus. People do not actually utilize and retain the majority of things they learn, because of divided attention or a shallow level of processing.

When it comes down to learning  a new skill, it can be most effectively done by focusing on just a few specific things, completely learning about them, and then moving on to something new.

It’s taken me numerous years to realize that if I really want to learn how to play the guitar, I have to make time to practice. I can’t just causally play here and there and expect to make significant progress. In order to really remember something, it comes down to repetition.

If we have enough experience with something, or hear information enough times, we begin to remember it and truly understand it. We can start to emotionally connect with information.

This means understanding it on a deeper level, as opposed to simply intellectually understanding it, and this is when we can really apply knowledge.

I really believe we can learn from almost any experience if we develop a process for learning, and take a concerted effort to fully understand the information.

Improve Retention

Document ideas Having a way to document your ideas is one of most valuable ways to begin organizing your thoughts and ideas in order to use them effectively.

This can be done by writing ideas down on a notepad, using a voice recorder, or using the iPad or other portable application. If the technologies there, use it to be more efficient. You can capture ideas, start to prioritize them, and make sure to come back and put them to later use.

Rehearsal The more we go over something in our head, the more likely it will be encoded in long-term memory. This applies to knowledge or coordinated behavior.

There is a 10 year or 10,000 hour rule, that contends almost anyone can gain expert knowledge and ability in a particular area after practicing for this amount of time. The more we engage in an activity or study material the more likely this knowledge and skill will begin to manifest in our everyday situations.

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi

Chunking Group information together and make less units to remember. This can help if we have information to memorize such as a telephone number or list of words.

Though it can also be utilized in applying directions to learn a new task. Efficiency and effectiveness can be attained by using this technique, as it’s a good way to simplify more complicated information.

Elaboration This involves using imagery and making associations with new information. This can be done by finding a connection through synchronicity or a meaningful relationship, or by visual thinking that connects unique images to ideas.

By adding depth and purpose to information it will make ideas standout and be more likely remembered.

Develop a learning Process

Choose only a few main areas Like most, I’m interested in and enjoy many different things. I want to be constantly learning and have access to so much knowledge, though there are times when I get information overload and need a break from incessant thinking.

Having an inquisitive nature can help to achieve growth, but can also make it harder to focus on and digest the countless barrage of information and ideas. For instance, if I encounter many new situations in my life at the same time, it can be tough to transition and efficiently manage all the new learning curves at once. In situations like this, I find it helpful to focus on just a few main things at a time.

We can master a couple objectives, and when we feel confident, move on to the next set.

Choose one or two areas you really want to learn about and make the effort to fully focus and learn about these areas.

If you’re in a life or career transitions, there may be many new things to learn. Don’t feel overwhelmed, just pick a few things to tackle one at a time and slowly go down the list. Remember, we have our entire life to learn.

Work toward repetition Repetition is the next step in truly applying knowledge. Once we have determined what we want to learn, it’s time to start incorporating this into our everyday routine.

If we’re learning how to play a musical instrument, apply time-management or efficiency strategies, learning how to make a website, or learning a new professional position, repetition is the key to making the knowledge part of our life.

In order to really grasp a new activity, we must begin making it a habit. Start to instill the information or activity into as many areas of your life as possible. If you find this area a current passion, go full force, and work through the plateaus of learning, until you have mastered the subject.

They’ll be points in the learning process where we won’t know everything we need to know, but just stick with your intentions to learn, and with enough exposure the information will become assimilated into your life.

Be Willing to Make Mistakes A book called Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck, explains that there are two types of mindsets people hold. There is a fixed mindset, where intelligence is fixed and what we know, is what we know. A lack of natural or immediate understanding is viewed as a flaw.

On the other hand, we can have a growth mindset. With a growth mindset people seek out more challenges and are willing to be incorrect for the sake of learning. With a growth mindset, people know learning is a process and can be done by anyone.

We can’t learn without going through the motions. No one out there just happens to know how to do something. THEY LEARNED!

Take the approach that just because you don’t know something, doesn’t mean you’re ignorant and can’t learn. If nothing else, learn something new by trial and error.

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. – John C. Maxwell”

Be a Life-long learner

All in all, how can information be applied? Gearing your attitude toward continual learning and development is essential to the application of new information. We must take a few things and get as much repetition as we can. Keep a mind frame that information is malleable and learn how it fits best into our particular situation.

As Stephen Convey explains, we must continue to sharpen the saw. Cultivating the means to be a life-long learner provides the means to bridge gaps and open new opportunities. It can be hard work to continually develop and apply new information, but by putting in the effort to understand and develop new habits, information becomes a tool for success.

Being prepared to apply knowledge offers many more opportunities to develop. Preparation is the key to capitalize on opportunity, and by learning and growing we can begin to sculpt the life we desire.

I would love to hear suggestions on being an active learner and applying knowledge, so please comment and share your insight. How do you apply knowledge in your life?