Were you one of those kids who groaned about homework and extra classes? Or were you the nerd who devoured her textbooks and then borrowed some more for “light reading” from the library?
Either way, that kind of learning probably does not happen any more in our lives.
Maybe you are in a 9–5 job, fighting rush hour traffic, bargaining for raises and climbing the corporate ladder; all the while wondering what you TRULY want to do with your life. Or maybe you are working for a startup, hustling every day, becoming a jack-of-all-trades and wondering if you could ever master ONE. It’s also possible that you are a freelancer or a business owner who is finding her own clients day in and day out and wishing things were easier and simpler.
Whatever may be close to your case, the one thing that we all complain about is a lack of opportunities to learn new things. Apart from an occasional thought-piece read while commuting or on a break, we hardly have the time or energy to truly engage with a new subject.
If we pause and think about it, this is a sad state of affairs.
Although we are born curious, the rut of everyday life makes us less so. This makes it all the more important to make learning a habit. Charles Duhigg who wrote the thoroughly engaging ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business’ explains that 40% to 45% of what we do every day feels like a decision, but it is a habit. To elaborate further in his own words, “Every habit has three components. There’s a cue, which is like a trigger for the behaviour to start unfolding, A routine, which is the habit itself, the behaviour, the automatic sort of doing what you do when you do a habit. And then at the end, there’s a reward. And the reward is how our neurology learns to encode this pattern for the future.” And Duhigg reveals that the cue and the reward are super important to focus on if we want to build a habit.
Using this as a framework, let’s see how and why we need to build learning as a habit.
Behaviours become habits through repetition over time. But for behaviour to first take place, we need a cue. Or in other words, a reason that is motivating enough helps repeat the behaviour and make it into a habit.
In our fast-paced world, yesterday’s technology is invalid today and stale tomorrow. So, banking purely on the skills and subjects we learnt in school and college seems a bit silly. To be effective at our jobs and make a difference, we need to keep upskilling, upgrading and upkeeping our knowledge.
Our world is changing and we need to keep ourselves abreast with the changes happening around us. From climate change to depleting resources, if we are not aware of the many changes happening around us, we will not be able to take the right actions and prevention. So, in many ways learning is our civic responsibility.
Ignorance of what is unfolding around us will put us in serious economic, career, social and psychological disadvantage. Those who missed the bitcoin bus still lament the loss of a way they could have made good money. Someone who might benefit from a medical intervention may miss out due to a lack of awareness. So, learning helps us stay in-tune with the times.
Learning has several advantages — let’s look at all the rewards that this habit holds!
The more you learn about the world around you, the better you are at making conversations. Your wide knowledge is a great magnet! You become socially more attractive to talk to and be connected with; helping you build a bigger better network of connections.
In uncertain times, it is always good to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of a few. The best way to achieve this status is to keep learning. This way, even if AI takes over all the writing job, you can still use your coding skills to program those robots to produce creative content!
When we are aware of our surroundings and all the pressing topics that are in discussion, we have all the information needed to make better decisions. Better decisions lead to a better quality of life. You learn more about the world, become inclusive and empathetic. On the whole, learning makes you a better human being!
While this may seem dramatic, if you learn about specific topics like sustainability, voluntourism, international relations, diversity & inclusivity, etc., you become more equipped to save the world. Whether it is by employing a life of zero-waste or by being a negotiator during a war, you have all the skills required to avert danger and make the world a better place.
Who doesn’t want to stay young and gorgeous?! When we keep those grey cells working, we improve our cognitive functioning. This study undertaken by the University of Texas at Dallas found that learning specific new skills keeps an ageing mind sharp. So, learn more to stay young and thriving!
Now that we have the cue and reward in place, all we need is to build a “routine of learning.” This routine could be anything — joining a neighbourhood class, signing up as a member of a learning community, signing up for an online course, etc. As long as you show up regularly and keep the cue and reward in focus, you are well on your path in making learning a habit!