Learning does not stop when we leave school. Accordingly, we must look for new information and novel experiences every day. Adequate lifelong learning is not guaranteed. It is something we must continuously try to practice.
There are three powerful activities to stimulate the mind and foster new learning experiences. They are honest conversation, imaginative play, and creative art.
One of the simplest and most stimulating activities is having a conversation. This is because it effects so many parts of your brain, from auditory to emotions to cognition to planning. In every good conversation, each person is looking to learn new things from the other. One listens as much as one speaks.
Conversations can satisfy so many needs for us. They make us feel socially connected. We can learn new information from others and teach them what we know. Telling others about our lives and opinions helps us to evaluate our thinking and how our experiences are effecting us. We might get advice from an expert or a friend on what to do about a particular situation.
Do you remember the last time you asked a friend for advice? What was your problem? What advice did your friend give you? Did you take the advice by applying it to your problem? Was it helpful? What was the result? Write about it here:
Tips for good conversations:
- Respect the opinions of others – It’s ok to disagree. In fact, the best conversations are those that occur between two people who differ. When I speak with someone who has contrary opinions to mine, it is likely because her experience or her thinking is different from mine. If I ask her respectfully why she believes what she does, she will likely be able to tell me about an episode in her life that changed how she felt about our topic of conversation. Or she may explain to me the logic that leads her to believe what she does. Either of these perspectives can help me to understand more about her as a person and more about the world. Diversity of opinion helps us make better decisions in life.
- Confirm you understand – A lot of the activity in a conversation is making sure you understand the other person correctly. Don’t assume you do. Sometimes it helps to just rephrase what the other person has said. This is perfectly acceptable, and people do it often. It confirms your understanding and shows the other person that you are really interested in what they are saying. But you can’t do that the entire time, or else your partner will get bored. Add to the conversation something new that you think shares the same essential elements. Your partner will recognize that you understand him and will keep the discussion going with something else new.
- Silence – When people are comfortable in a conversation, like two old friends, there can be some silence. This is beautiful, as it gives each person a chance to think deeply about what was just said. It also allows each person more time to make deliberate choices about how to react and what to say next. In your next chat with someone, whether you know them well or they are a total stranger, try to pause for just a second or two more than you normally do. See if it improves the quality of the discussions you have.
Kids know that playing games and make-believe is fun. But the same is true for adults. Imaginative play is a powerful tool for learning and increasing creativity. When people play together, they are interacting in a way that allows for more freedom. They can make choices they would not normally make because the consequences are much smaller. It is a time for people to entertain each other, to experiment, and to learn through trial and error.
Art is a creative practice. It requires us to think in ways we have never thought before.