When leaders and innovators around the world from Bill Gates to Oprah and Warren Buffet all do ONE Thing, it tends to get people’s attention. Recently INC.com explored the common thread that many highly successful people share –deliberate practice.
Many of the world’s top entrepreneurs spend at least one hour each workday on learning. Typically, this deliberate practice is in the form of reading, reflection or experimentation. The subject matter is carefully selected with the intention of increasing their productivity.
This dedicated time block for learning allows top performers to clear space in their busy schedule for their own personal and professional development. It also challenges them to expand their mind in a meaningful way. Plus, learning new skills can help keep you mentally sharp and protect against cognitive decline.
While these observations weren’t based on scientific studies, they do fall in line with what many neurologists already know. Research has shown time blocking for deliberate learning is good for your brain, your health and your ONE thing.
Learning Staves Off Cognitive Decline
The aging process physically impacts cognitive function. Impaired blood circulation, decreased neurotransmitters, stress and illness all take a toll on our grey matter. Just as you need to exercise to keep your body in peak physical condition, you also need to train your brain.
Neurologists are urging adults to continue reading and learning as they age in an effort to help offset the physical aspects of aging and decrease the risk of some cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Programs such as Luminosity are an excellent resource for those who can only time block 10-15 minutes a day for brain training. This service, for instance, delivers a daily set of brain games that are designed to challenge you mentally.
To realize the benefits of lifelong learning you don’t have to necessarily learn new things. Some experts, like St. Mary’s College of California professor Kathleen Taylor, believe that it’s even more beneficial to challenge what you think you already know. Doing so can fire up existing neural connections and create a deeper level of learning that includes new viewpoints and perceptions.
Lifelong Learning Improves Brain Plasticity
Our brain is a series of neural connections that are constantly changing, growing and re-wiring. It’s what’s known as brain plasticity.
When we’re children, brain plasticity is extremely high, which allows us to take in and retain a lot of information. That’s why kids can usually learn a new language faster than an adult.
As we grow older our brains become more rigid and our capacity to learn decreases. But researchers say that doesn’t have to be the case. We can improve our brain plasticity and capacity to learn by continuing to pursue knowledge and trying new things. Exposing ourselves to something new forces our brain to think actively rather than going into default mode.
The solution is simple – continue to challenge yourself and to think differently with lifelong learning. Regular mental stimulation has the power to create new nerve cell connections, help build new cells and decrease loss by fortify existing brain cells. You’ll stay sharper and think quicker even as you take on more responsibilities in the workplace.
Deliberate Learning Keeps Us Creative
The way we think can improve with age, particularly in the area of creative thinking. But it can only improve if you continue to stretch your creative cognitive muscles. Changing things up to challenge yourself is a great form of experimentation.
- Try a new way of solving a problem or completing a task.
- Practice a creative outlet like art or music.
- Learn an entirely new skill.
- Complete a task in a new environment.
The more you can step outside of the box and think creatively the easier it is for your brain come up with innovative ideas.
It Takes Thousands of Hours to Master a Skill
Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, believed that masters are always learning. Achieving mastery meant embracing the idea of lifelong learning and being a continual student of your craft.In recent years science has proven that Jjgoro Kano was right.
Superior performance is largely a matter of skill acquisition over thousands of hours of practice rather than natural talent or intelligence. Continual training and extended experience are needed to achieve true mastery. Many entrepreneurs take ten years or more honing their skills and gaining new ones before they reach the pinnacle of success. That’s closer to the norm than an entrepreneur who simply jumps in with little experience and somehow miracles their way to success.
Time blocking at least an hour for learning each day helps to ensure you’ll continue on the path to mastering a skill and achieving your ONE Thing.