Learn Something New: How Adults Can Be Better Learners

woman reading a book

If you expect that you can learn a new language or skill the way you could as a child, then you’re in for a big disappointment. Aging does affect a person’s ability to absorb and retain new information in these two fields. The good news is that apart from biology, most of the obstacles are mostly caused by poor time management and lack of discipline. The truth persists that there is nothing impossible for you to learn if you set your mind to it.

There are some practical methods you can utilize to set the momentum going for you. While there are a lot of tools and tips you can resort to, these are the ones that address the most common problems adults encounter when learning something new.

Start with something you like

It doesn’t matter if you’re improving your learning skills to qualify for a promotion or to land your dream job. The best place to start is always with a skill you’ve always wanted to master. This is because you’re less likely to quit halfway if you enjoy what you’re doing. It will also make it easier to develop the other skills you need to learn new things faster in the future.

Perhaps you had a childhood dream of playing the piano in a recital hall in Colorado, and you’ve always considered playing again. Sign up for guitar or piano lessons.  There are music schools that cater to adults, and paying for classes will discourage you from breaking your resolve.

Whatever your passion is, start with that. The discipline and dedication you develop by attending those music classes and practicing at home will carry over to the bigger skills you’ll have to learn at work.

woman on the floor using her laptop

Forget learning styles

Believe it or not, learning styles aren’t universally accepted in the field of science. Dr. Tesia Marshik shared in her TED talk that in the 40 years of research conducted on learning styles, there was never any credible evidence to prove its efficiency. Matching teaching styles to people’s learning styles made no difference.

This implies that everybody learns the same way, and the methods you choose should depend largely on what you’re trying to learn in the first place. If it’s a new instrument, attending an actual music school is preferable. If it’s a new language, conversing with a native speaker and immersing yourself to media in that language are your top options.

The availability and convenience of certain resources should also be a part of your consideration. So, the next time you feel limited by your learning style, it’s worth pondering if you really can’t do something well by using different methods.

Dedicate a set time

When you’re an adult with a full-time job, a house to clean, and possibly children to raise, then time may not be on your side. It’s the common complaint of those who’ve abandoned hobbies and passion projects, and while it is a very real challenge, it’s not impossible to find time for all things.

Time management is one skill you’ll need to master in your journey to learning new things. Dedicate a set time daily for what you’re trying to learn. It doesn’t matter if it’s just an hour or fifteen minutes. The more you honor your appointments with yourself, the more natural it will be for you to show up to study or practice new skills in the future.

Honor Your Progress

Perfectionism will sabotage this endeavor if you don’t take the time to honor your progress. Things might not go as fast you’d like, but given your busy schedule, you’re advancing at a good rate. Most days, little progress is better than no progress at all.

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