My life, like many others, looks a little like this in technological terms. I was designed 28 years ago. The first few years, I was in a constant phase of rapid development and learning where everything was new. After my software became more stable and functional, I was sent off to elementary school for more structured learning. After a few years, I officially got an upgrade by completing elementary school. Subsequently, I got a few more upgrades after middle school, high school, undergraduate school and graduate school. Me as a person and as a software system were quite up-to-date. At least I had thought. Even though I had been completing major upgrades throughout schooling, I started to realize that not all my various underlying components had been updated in a while.
How We Become Out-of-Date
As I grew, my areas of interest and knowledge slowly tapered. I learned about nutrition for a year in health class years ago but was never taught anything since then. My parents educated me about money while growing up but once college started, I didn’t see them as much. This meant that my source for financial learning had essentially dried up. I used to learn about English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science and Physical Education almost every day, but as the years went by, I tapered my focus to a single subject for many years (revolving around my job/career). I learned many lessons and installed many mental software components throughout my life, but I rarely scheduled time for applying patches to my educational gaps, installing fixes for my false beliefs and applying updates to my outdated knowledgebase.
This story may sound similar to your experience. As the years have passed, you likely haven’t revisited physical and nutritional education very much. You likely haven’t spent much time learning about sleep and cognitive health. You likely haven’t dedicated hours to understanding personal finance and investing. And, you likely haven’t learned many complex and completely new skills either. This process of running out-of-date software and ignoring new features/skills started causing inefficiencies in my life, a degraded decision making ability and narrowing database of knowledge.
Why Dedicate Time to Update and Install?
There’s constant research being performed on every aspect of our life from health, to human behavior, to business management. This research generally yields a better understanding of the topic and how it can be improved. If we don’t continuously spend time learning this new information, we’re left performing outdated tasks. For example, in high school we learned about the “Got Milk” campaign and how important milk was for our bones and muscle growth. Years later, that information is highly controversial with many studies correlating an increased consumption of milk with an increased risk of osteoarthritis and cancer. If you haven’t spent time learning this new information, you’re probably drinking lots of milk, and thinking it’s good for you. This is why updating our software is so important. If we don’t revisit information we’ve learned previously, it’s likely we’re performing tasks that are no longer relevant for reasons that are no longer accurate.
Let’s not forget about installing new features too. When’s the last time you learned something new and complex like rock climbing, salsa dancing, software development or a new language? A study published last year found that older adults who practiced learning new complex skills for 1.5 months improved their cognitive abilities similar to those of middle-aged adults, 30 years younger. Other research suggests that learning completely new and complex skills can ward off dementia and increase memory. These new features and skills not only help with long term cognitive health, but can spark creativity too. All of this suggests we should continually try to learn new and complex skills.
5 Ways to Update Your Brainware
Like any task you want to accomplish, I recommend scheduling time for it. Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and many other highly accomplished individuals schedule at least 5 hours every week for continual learning. Whether it’s updating your current skill set or acquiring new skills, start by putting a couple hours on your calendar each week for dedicated learning.
Here are a few effective ways to spend those scheduled hours:
- Read: Books and blog posts are a great way to learn. A common recommendation is to read one book a month and one blog post a week. For me, I try to read six books a year that relate to updating my current skills and six more books dedicated to acquiring new skills. I also follow a few bloggers that post weekly or monthly about personal finance, business development and lifestyle design. If you’re already following myHealthSciences, you’re off to a great start. If not, you can sign up for my weekly newsletter here and be well on your way to reading one blog post a week.
- Listen: Listening to podcasts while driving to work or performing household tasks is a great way to maximize your learning opportunities. I find long-form podcasts are a great way to learn because they provide the time necessary to explore a topic and discuss the how and why along the way.
- Watch: Watch documentaries or educational YouTube videos. I follow nutritionists, physical therapists, doctors, minimalists and financial experts on YouTube. I’ll watch shorter videos throughout the week, and try to watch at least one documentary a month.
- Take Courses/Classes: Courses and classes are always a great way to learn. At work, I spend a couple hours each week going through online courses to improve my skills. There are many online outlets for courses and class. Many towns and cities also offer courses and classes on how to cook, dance, paint, and more. This more structured method can help you acquire information more quickly and often in greater depth than reading, watching or listening alone.
- Do: After using the four methods above, don’t forget to practice what you’ve learned. If I’ve spent a lot of time learning about healthy recipes, I’ll probably learn just as much cooking them. Whatever it is you’re learning, spend time performing that activity or skill. The brain is a muscle that needs exercise just like the rest of your body.
The brain is the body’s software. It goes through rapid development and an early period of continual learning. But after many years of tapering our interests and knowledge, the brain becomes outdated and lacks new features. This causes our brain to believe false information, perform unproductive tasks and decline in cognitive ability. But the great thing is, there are so many updates and feature upgrades available to us in all shapes types and various forms. Start by scheduling a couple hours each week to dedicated learning. Read, watch, and listen to relevant learning material. Partake in courses and classes. And lastly, don’t forget to perform what you learn. This process will help keep your brainware up-to-date and feature-rich.
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Hey, I am Brandon Zerbe
Welcome to myHealthSciences! My goal has always been to increase quality-of-life with healthy habits that are sustainable, efficient and effective. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognitive Health, Financial Independence and Minimalism. You can read more about me here.
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