Being a Lifelong Learner - Capitalize on All Experiences!
A learning ritual is a practice you engage in before a learning opportunity (read: any experience you want to learn from!) occurs. Here I share why having one will enhance your cognitive performance, and leave you with a few questions to help create your own personal learning ritual.
WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A LEARNING RITUAL
1. Use a learning ritual to get your mind into curiousity mode. When we are curious, our hippocampus (a part of the brain heavily involved in the formation of new memories), nucleus accumbens and substantia nigra ventral tegmental areas (the networks involved in recognizing and seeking reward) are more active than when we aren't. Additionally, these networks have enhanced communication when we are curious- meaning that our brain is more likely to retain the material we are exposed to when we are curious (NOT just the material we're actually curious about!).
2. The act of thinking about thinking primes your mind to intake knowledge. In education, this is known as the value of meta-cognition. Before you open a book or step into a workshop, imagine how you'd go about learning during that experience. Imagine what the author was thinking about when they wrote it, or what the expression on your face would be if you were truly engaged with material. Studies regarding learning styles show that 1) styles aren't as simplistic as many of us think and, 2) it's not the act of discovering what your learning style is that leads to any improvements learning- it's the thinking about thinking!
3. Learning rituals prepare you for the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. A learning ritual makes you alert to the possibility of learning from diverse situations. Our world is becoming increasingly more complex- meaning that those that will prosper and be able to respond to changes are those who can learn and incorporate knowledge at a rapid rate. Best way to incorporate knowledge? Be looking to learn everywhere you go!
4. Rituals tip you off to situations that don't deserve your attention: a show you always watch or a friend you may meet with got you feeling dull and uninspired? A ritual will help you evaluate and decide that "THIS AIN'T WORTH LEARNING!" Or, the ritual may inspire you to look at the TV show/event/conversation in a new way and decide that it could teach you something more than what's on the surface. #allthepowertoyou
THOUGHTS TO HELP CREATE YOUR LEARNING RITUAL
1. Ask yourself: What is one activity I do daily that could be an opportunity to learn? Stop skipping over it. Plan to pause for 1 minute the next time you do this drab duty and come up with a list of as many curious questions as you can muster about this base task.
2. Make a list of the 10 things you have upcoming this year (eg classes, conferences, trips, big events) and list 1-3 things you'd like to learn at each. Picture yourself in those situations and imagine what it will feel like to really understand and incorporate the material. What are you doing? How does your body feel? How can you create that feeling at the event itself?
3. Add tried and true methods, including body movement! Create your own signature move that signals to your brain it's time to get active. For me, it's to place my colourful pens out in front of me and to let myself choose which colour feels right for the day. Lots of athletes tip their body and brain off to get ready to compete through their pre-game ritual. Get into peak learning performance mode by adding something physical to your learning ritual.