Have you ever struggled to focus in a learning environment or had trouble wrapping your head around a new concept? On a recent episode of ON Purpose, host Jay Shetty takes listeners on a journey to explore the concept of learning about how we learn.
Shetty started off by sharing one of his favorite statements from Alvin Toffler from his 1970 book, Future Shock. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”1
That’s a sobering statement that raises an important question: How do we best teach ourselves to, in Toffler’s words, “learn, unlearn, and relearn?”
What’s the Big Deal About Learning?
“Our whole lives, we've been expected to learn,” said Jay Shetty. “We've been expected to learn fast. We've been expected to learn so we can have exams. We have to learn so that we can have a job … but we never learn how to learn.”
Shetty flips the script in this episode by explaining the disadvantages of not learning instead of the benefits of learning. Why? Often, learning about the negatives, and what might go wrong, motivates us more than learning the positives. We want a good outcome for ourselves and others, and the knowledge and fear of something going wrong drives us to get it right.
First, according to a 2010 study done by University College London, boredom can lead to a risk of heart disease over two times the amount of the average person. Thankfully, since the reason we become bored is often due to a lack of mental stimulation, Jay Shetty says there’s an easy fix for this.
“Learning cuts right through that,” said Jay Shetty. “Learning is about movement. Learning is momentum learning. It’s about pushing forward. And so the antidote to boredom is actually learning… it's dangerous to your health to not learn.”
Yet the older we get, the less often we learn.
“Think about the last time you learned something new,” said Jay Shetty. “Think about the last time you learned something for the first time. It's rare that we continue to learn, and yet there is such a need for us to learn every single day, from our careers to our relationships.”
“The problem is, as we get older, we learn much less frequently,” said Jay Shetty. “When we were at school, we learned every day. Then if you went to college or started a new job, you were learning every day. But as we get older and older and older, we actually stop learning.”
What If Learning Isn’t Fun?
When Shetty was younger, learning wasn’t fun. He didn’t enjoy reading and couldn’t get into the books the other kids enjoyed. Since he associated reading with learning, he assumed he just didn’t like to learn.
This isn’t an unusual occurrence. Many children struggle through school, dread going to class, experience conflict with teachers … but what if it’s not because they don’t like learning? What if it’s because they were meant to learn in a different way – a way that schools weren’t designed to provide?
“School was not built for different learning styles,” said Jay Shetty. “Just in the same way people write differently, just in the same way people speak differently, just in the same way people think differently, guess what? People learn differently.
Have you ever stopped to think about your learning style? If not, it’s time! When you understand your learning style, you’ll learn better, remember more, apply more, and be able to make more of a difference with what you learn.
The Four Learning Styles
There are four different learning styles, described in a 1992 study by Neil D. Fleming and Colleen Mills.2 Understanding your personal learning style can help you stay engaged as a learner. It can also help you every day in your interactions with others at work and at home. Knowing the types isn’t enough. The learning styles won’t make a difference in your life until you understand your own and how it affects your life.
Jay Shetty uses the acronym “VARK,” which was created by Fleming and Mills to describe the four learning styles they identified – visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. Read the descriptions of Fleming and Mills’ learning styles below, then rank yourself according to how well you believe that style describes you on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “Not at all” and 10 being “that’s totally me!”
Learning Style #1: Visual
Visual learners learn best through seeing data and information represented via images. They love graphs, charts, pictures, and other illustrations. Visual learners are often associated with photographic memory, as they may see a graph or image and can recall data from it later.
Jay Shetty points out that visual learning can come in several different forms. Some people write notes so they have something to look at later. Others take pictures they’ll be able to study, and some put images or words on their wall that’ll be noticed often.
Learning Style #2: Auditory
Auditory learning is all about listening. If you enjoy listening to podcasts, books or videos, you probably enjoy the auditory learning style. Auditory learning is a unique learning style because you can listen to things such as podcasts while doing just about anything – cooking, running, driving, you name it. Learning through listening is versatile, and its versatility makes it a great way to learn.
“It's a really, really powerful way to learn and grow,” said Jay Shetty.
Learning Style #3: Reading and Writing
People who learn best by reading and writing often take notes when listening or highlight information when they read. For some, all it takes is reading, while others learn best through reading something then taking notes.
Learning Style #4: Kinesthetic
Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. You can often find a kinesthetic learner with something in their hands, working with it as they learn. It’s kind of like trial and error by doing. A good example of a kinesthetic learning opportunity is learning an instrument. You can read about the piano all day long, but to really learn how to play the piano, you need to start playing it.
So how did you rank? Did you write down your ratings for each learning style on a scale of 1-10? Which learning style best describes you? Now that you know, you can start finding more ways to learn in your unique learning style.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “The 4 Ways Your Mind Learns & How To Strengthen Your Focus, Memory, and Attention” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.
1 Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock. New York: Bantam Books, 1970.
2 Fleming, Neil D., and Colleen Mills. “Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection.” To Improve the Academy, vol. 11, no. 1, 1992, pp. 137–155., doi:10.1002/j.2334-4822.1992.tb00213.x.