earning valuable skills and new information starts and ends in the classroom—or so we tend to think. Our “job” in elementary school, high school, and college can be simply watered down as being students. With so much emphasis on pursuing an education during our childhood and adolescence, it is easy to forget that the process of learning can and should extend far beyond the end of high school or college.
During our adult years, learning, while still beneficial and rewarding, becomes an active pursuit. It may not be the focus of our lives, as we spend the majority of our time working jobs that perform specific functions, but investing time to learn about new skills and topics can add exciting dimensions to our lives, ultimately making our adult years more interesting and fulfilling.
Here are three steps you can take if you want to continue your journey learning as an adult.
- Find a new topic or skill that interests you
- Figure out your optimal learning style
- Choose a resource based on your learning style
Find a new topic or skill that interests you
We all have different things we enjoy doing--cooking, writing, playing golf. Regardless of what hobbies you like to pursue, they’re all based on skills you learn. Learning can have a negative connotation—we often associate it with falling asleep while reading an Algebra textbook in high school. Lucky for you, you’re an adult. You no longer have to sit through general education requirements for your major or painfully wait for the lunch bell to ring. What you learn and how you learn it is all up to you now. Even if you never saw yourself as much of a learner, that doesn’t mean you can’t start developing a skill that has always interested you or take some time out of your schedule to learn more about an unfamiliar topic.
Figuring out the new topic or skill you want to learn may seem easy. And, perhaps for you, it is. But it can also be frustrating if you don’t know what interests you. Conversely, having to pick one topic or area of interest out of a whole bunch that intrigue you can be overwhelming.
Here are a few things you can do to help figure out what you might be fascinated to learn about.
Do some reflecting:
The best way to figure out what you’re interested in is to take some time to ruminate about it. Here are a few questions that can guide your thinking:
- What do you enjoy doing?
- How do you spend your free time?
- What is something you are especially curious about?
- What activities give you energy?
- What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too afraid/busy to do?
Paying attention to how you feel about certain topics and skills can be a great way to gauge your interest in them. If you’re unsure about how to answer some of these questions, consider asking a friend to answer them for you. Getting an outside perspective can be especially useful if you’re unaware of your strengths.
Make a list
Organizing your thoughts and ideas that come up during reflection pairs very well with making a list. Write down your answers so you don’t forget them! If any topic or skill ideas pop into your head during the reflection process, make sure to write them down regardless of how easy or difficult they seem. Even if you decide to only start learning about one area of interest, writing down these ideas when they come to you will make it easier to pick new topics later on. Once you have a substantial list of topics to choose from, organize it based on order of interest or accessibility, whichever is more relevant to you when it comes to deciding what you want to learn about.
Take personality tests
When all else fails, there are always personality tests. 16Personalities is a free online test that will sort your personality into one of 16 different types by asking you questions about your perception and judgement. Test results include skills you might be good at depending on your personality type. If reflecting and making lists aren’t getting you anywhere, personality tests might be a good way to start turning your gears.
Figure out your optimal learning style
You might remember school as a one-size-fits all model. Every student received the same assignments and was expected to absorb information in the same way. But there are actually four different learning styles that people gravitate toward.
Visual learners understand information more easily when it is presented in a way that allows them to clearly see it. These people prefer to look at graphs and charts, and learn by drawing concepts out, taking notes, and making lists.
Auditory learners prefer to hear information. They generally like to explain concepts by talking them out, and reinforce what they are processing by reading it aloud or repeating it back to themselves.
Kinesthetic learners like to experience the concept they are trying to grasp. In other words, these people like the hands-on approach and enjoy physically engage with the material they are trying to learn.
Reading and writing 📚✍️
Reading and writing learners find it easier to understand a concept through words. These are the type of people who like to express themselves by writing in a diary and go to books as their main hub for information.
If you’re unsure which category matches your learning style the best, don’t worry. Several online quizzes can help give you an idea of which one is most like you.
Choose a resource based on your learning style
What could you possibly ever want to know that you wouldn’t be able to learn from a YouTube video? With about 500 hours of video uploaded to the website every minute, probably not a lot. YouTube is an extensive and free resource that you can use to find tutorials and tips on just about any topic you can ever think of. This is an especially useful resource if you’re looking to learn a skill, as YouTube can show you how it’s done as opposed to having to use other mediums where you can’t visualize the skill as easily. Certain videos posted on the site that rely less on YouTube’s visual component, like lectures and TedTalks, can come in handy for those who prefer to learn by listening, as they allow people to focus on the sound instead of the visual aspect.
Learning style: Visual 👀 + auditory👂
Masterclass is an excellent tool for those who want to pick up a new skill and be guided by a master. For $15 a month, Masterclass offers over a hundred different classes on all sorts of topics from cooking and writing, to business and tennis. What’s more, all of these classes are taught by professionals in their respective fields. Masterclass is ideal for both visual and auditory learners, as lessons take the form of videos where demonstrations can be watched but commentary and instructions can be heard.
Learning style: Visual 👀 + auditory👂
Coursera is an online platform that offers a wide array of free college classes that you can take virtually at your own pace. Just about any subject you can imagine learning in a university context—computer programming, philosophy, psychology, the list goes on—you can begin to explore through courses taught by world-class companies and universities on Coursera. This is a great option for those who are visual, auditory, or reading and writing learners, as the audio in the platform’s videos is transcribed, providing an option to read the information in addition to listening to orwatching it.
Learning style: Visual 👀 + auditory👂+ reading and writing 📚✍️
Podcasts are every auditory learner’s dream medium. People have made podcasts on just about every single subject imaginable, giving auditory learners a vast array of topics and areas of interest to choose from. Podcasting is also one of the few mediums where the only focus is sound. As a result, details that may not be verbally described over video are explicitly stated in a podcast. The goal is to create narratives and clarity through audio, which makes it appeal directly to those who favor this method when it comes to gathering information.
Learning style: Auditory👂
Nothing too crazy about this one. Books are the learning method that you probably became quite familiar with in high school and college. For those who learn best through reading and writing, books are the bread and butter when it comes to understanding information or consulting a resource for clarity. If you’re a reading and writing learner, you’ve likely had your nose in quite a few books already. Try going to the library to get some inspiration on what you should read about next. You may very well find a book that speaks to you on a subject matter you've never considered reading about.
Learning style: Reading and writing 📚✍️
The cousin to regular books, eBooks have the same information you can find on the page but spoken in an audio format. This is another great resource for those who process information by hearing it, as eBooks focus solely on sound.
Learning style: Auditory👂
For those who prefer a hands on approach, or for those looking to learn something requiring real-world experience and interaction (take skydiving, let’s say), taking a class can be a perfect way to develop a new skill. You can take classes to learn just about anything, whether it be guitar or karate. Think about the type of activity you want to learn and then determine the appropriate place to go to seek out classes. Something sporty and outdoors may have you calling up your community center, whereas something more creative and crafty may have you walking into your local art supplies store.
Learning style: Kinesthetic 🏃
Mixing elements of video, sound, written texts, and hands-on experiences, museums may very well be the poster child for creating an educational environment accessible to everyone regardless of learning style. Of course, not all elements are given equal weight, something that depends on the type of museum and exhibit. You can look into the layout and type of exhibit before deciding whether or not to go to a particular museum, but more often than not it’s safe to say that most have something for everyone, regardless of how they prefer to learn.
Learning style: Kinesthetic 🏃+ visual 👀 + auditory👂 + reading and writing 📚✍️
One of the perks of being an adult is that you can control what you learn and how you choose to learn it. So, what sparks your curiosity?