WHERE SHOULD YOU START?
A GUIDE TO SELF-IMPROVEMENT
A GUIDE TO SELF-IMPROVEMENT
Learning is a big cornerstone if you want to step your game up. You might want to be more efficient at work, becoming a better lover, a greater entrepreneur or boss. Or might you simply want to be happier? No matter what your goal is, you need to know where to start in order to get there. You can easily learn something new every week, and even more when you’ll get used to it.
This article is designed to guide your first steps on your journey to self-improvement by understanding why and how learning is key. Tools and resources you can use right away at the end.
A guide to self-improvement
Knowledge is Power
There is only one real wealth nobody will ever be able to take away from you, and it’s your knowledge. Having a broad spectrum of expertise is the key to real freedom. I don’t say you should be scattering yourself in every direction, but having a greater comprehension of broader concepts is key to your growth.
In fact, the first step isn’t to learn more, it’s to understand the Power knowledge will give you. When you develop your own database of information, you become automatically more aware of what’s going on around you and in the world. You begin to see things differently and develop an awareness you haven’t had before. How can you love something you don’t understand? Why some people love Jazz music when you don’t? Maybe because they understand it, they know something you don’t. Can you imagine how life become gorgeous when you begin to feel love more often?
Be in love with learning
Saying that you should learn things is a dumb advice if you go read about online marketing when you hate being in front of a computer. Can you remember the majority of what you learned in history classes when you were in high school? I bet the answer is no. You were surely not passionate about what the subject was and the way you’ve been taught was not optimized to learn, but to retain big chunks of information, we’ll go back on this point later on.
I want you to open up your interest. Maybe it won’t be something you will apply on a daily basis right now, but trust me, you will somewhere along the way. I started by listening to motivational videos, discovering Gary Vaynerchuk, Elliot Hulse and many more. At first, it was only on a superficial level, but I began wanting more and dig deeper; understanding motivation, how it works, how the brain is wired… First thing I knew, I was buying books about emotional intelligence, communication, psychology, management, and neuroscience.
So, don’t be scared to starts slow and expand your interests one at a time. Don’t judge anything, let them come and go. Study a concept for a certain period of time and when you feel you’re not getting excited anymore, switch things up and put your head somewhere else. I usually go for 2 weeks period per subject or author. For 10 to 15 days, I consume all the (free) content I can on a given subject or by a specific author. Once I understand the major concepts and ideas, I switch to someone else or onto a different topic. It’s a good way to discover new topics or persons of interest and still be excited about learning.
Build your own learning system
How you consume information is the next big thing. What will you be spending most of your learning time on? Will you be a bookworm or an active listener? Here are some suggestions;
Books, blog or article
Youtube videos or online classes
Audiobooks or Podcast
The list goes on. There is no better a way than the other. You got to find how you learn best. Don’t be scared if you’re not a big books reader. I know a bunch of great learners that don’t read any book at all but listen to the audio version of it. Almost every best-seller is now available in audiobook. I’m a big fan of Youtube videos, this is how I’m the most efficient at retaining a large amount of information. The fact that someone’s talking, using his own words and the fact that I can see it, makes it easier for me. A good friend of mine, Vincent Pontbriand, owner of FitMenu, is a huge fan of audiobooks and podcasts. He must listen to one or two a week. With his tight schedule, they give him the ability to consume information as he’s traveling or waiting somewhere. It’s plain simple and efficient.
So be creative, adapt your learning to your lifestyle. If you’re a student and have no money for books, listen to Youtube videos or podcasts. If you have a busy schedule or you’re a mom with two kids, listen to audiobooks while you drive, cook or wait somewhere. Try to have different sources of content that you can access quickly and easily.
Don’t bullshit yourself, you have time
You have actually no excuses for not being able to learn through your daily activities. If you are reading this and chewing up on why you can’t, you should go read the first paragraph again. Having excuses is actually giving away your Power.
If you didn’t, go read my article about self-worth (You’re a fucking miracle – Understand your worth and achieve more). Self-improvement starts with a good dose of love for your being. How will you make room for improvement on something you don’t actually love? It’s like aiming to be the employee of the month and hating your job – it won’t happen.
See things like this; you want to do something more, which is learning. Don’t just add it, instead, make room for it. You are taking the decision to improve. The word Decision is derived from Incision; meaning you have to “cut” somewhere. Let’s say you are watching Netflix 10.5 hours a week (two episodes of 45min every day), you can actually cut down to 5.5 hours of Game of Thrones and you now have 5.5 hours free for some Ted Talks and you don’t even have to get up from your couch (you lazy ass). Or you can simply subscribe to a Podcast and listen to it while you’re driving to work or on the bus.
You want to improve, it starts by making room for it.
Learn to learn
A common obstacle we face is the fact that we almost all had bad experiences with learning. Remember how it was painful at school to remember large chunks of information and hoping to be able to put it on paper at the exam. This is surely the worst way to do it. Do you want to understand a concept or remember it? The goal of self-improvement is to comprehend, there is no exam at the end of the day. No one will want to test your memory.
This is why I started by encouraging you to learn about things you love. The brain learns when he’s playing – when he is having fun. The mammals learn through games and by interacting with each other. Don’t ask yourself why kids learn to use smartphones and become good at video games so fast, they’re having fun.
Like I mention, we learn by interacting with each other. Which means by communicating the ideas and concepts we remember. The brain consolidates acquired information by explaining it. Explain what you’ve learned to friends, on a Facebook group or by writing them down. If you can explain it clearly, you’ve understood it and it will be saved in your long-term memory (not like your high school history classes).
Use scientifically-proven learning techniques
Yes, there are techniques you can use to learn faster and more efficiently (There you go, you just learn something new!).
First off, the easiest to apply and the most effective is the Pomodoro technique. It’s more a time management tool, but when you apply it to your learning time, you get much better results. It was first introduced by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. You simply need to fragment your learning time by chunks of 15 to 20 minutes with 5 minutes break in between. Your work time must be 100% focused on one thing only and you must not be disturbed. Every round is called a Pomodoro.
Let’s say you do 15 mins of intensive reading and then take a break of 5 mins, you just did one Pomodoro. You should be doing four Pomodoro’s and then take a longer break. It was named after the mechanical tomato shaped-like timer Cirillo was using. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian. You can read more about this technique here.
Another useful technique is to add texture to what you are learning. Exactly what we just did with Francesco’s system. I didn’t only tell you to go for 15 mins work and 5 mins break, I gave you the history of it. You know the name of his creator, what a Pomodoro is and how to use it. You are more likely to remember it because your brain has more dots to connect together. As the Hebbian’s rule says; Neurons that fire together wire together. So, make a maximum of connections and create a story in your head while you study new ideas, you will retain way more information.
Learning is a process
There is no end goal here – no pressure to perform. Go to your own speed and appreciate what you are doing. Learning is a skill you will develop and love over time. When you’ll see all the benefits it has to bring, you won’t be able to go a day without it. As an intelligent species, we are here to learn new skills and develop our knowledge. Do it for yourself first, then put it to good uses so we can all grow from your work.
Resources and useful tools
Podcast app by Apple
Udemy – Online courses
Medium.com – Next level blogging
Be Focused app – Pomodoro timer for your phone (Put your phone on do not disturb to be sure to be focused!)
Audible.com – Largest audiobooks own by Amazon
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