Keep learning, keep winning

Strengthen your brain and boost your personal and professional success at the same time. Learning new skills brings many benefits, and it’s easier to do than you might think.

Start by asking yourself, when was the last time you learned something new? Your brain needs exercise just as much as your body does in order to stay healthy and flexible.

Thanks to neuroplasticity, your brain has the ability to continue growing and forming new connections throughout your life. When you practice a new skill — such as a learning to play a musical instrument, learning a new language, learning a software program, or taking up a new hobby — you increase the density of white matter in your brain, called myelin, which improves your brain’s performance. You also form new neural pathways, which allow electrical impulses to travel faster throughout your brain, helping you learn and process information faster.

And that increased learning speed, along with the new skills and knowledge you’ve acquired, make you even more valuable in the workplace, where change is constant and new technologies are continually being developed. Your willingness to learn new things also demonstrates your flexibility and desire to take on new challenges — two qualities employers admire.

Beyond that, lifelong learning prevents boredom, makes you interesting and relatable to many people, keeps your mind sharp and alert, allows you to expand your thinking and problem-solving abilities, and helps fight off dementia as you age.

Here are some tips to make regular learning part of your life and your winning strategy:

  1. Ask questions – When you happen to read or hear about something you find interesting, don’t stop there. Look into it, dig deeper, find out as much as you can.
  2. Set a goal – Pick something you want to learn, whether it’s how to cook a certain dish, a new hobby, a new work skill, or a new computer application. Then make a point of doing something every day that brings you closer to your goal. Do online research, take a class, read a book, or talk to others who have the skill you want.
  3. Follow through – Learning a new skill takes commitment, but just like anything else, the hardest part is taking the first step. Don’t just think about what you’d like to learn, put your thoughts into action.
  4. Use your benefits – Find out if you have a tuition reimbursement program at work or if you can be reimbursed to attend a conference. You may also have in-house training or mentoring programs available to you.
  5. Volunteer – Either through a company-sponsored initiative or on your own, get involved in a volunteer activity that exposes you to something new and introduces you to new people. You never know where those new experiences will lead you.
  6. Surf the net – Websites like www.ted.com and www.khanacademy.org are designed to take your thinking in new directions and help you develop new ideas and knowledge.

Sources: Inc.com; CCSU Continuing Education; Randstad; Workitdaily.com