5 Steps to Creating a Personalized Learning Curriculum
In the last post, I made the argument that continuous learning is important for both your neurological and psychological health. Learning new skills and feeding your mind new information is part of a daily investment in yourself that sets you up for the good life.
Yet, too many of us are passive in our approach to learning. We don’t have any direction. Life just comes along day after day, and we react rather than act. The urgent but unimportant activities tug at our attention and we passively respond. This traps us in the frenetic and superficial, and we unwittingly miss out on the peaceful and profound.
So how could you approach continuous learning in a thoughtful deliberate way? How could you set yourself up with a plan that makes learning a daily ritual?
5 Steps to Creating a Personalized Learning Curriculum
1. Look for Gaps to Fill
Step back and identify any gaps in your life. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want more of? Is it money? If so, then consider what knowledge or skills could improve your situation. Is it time? Then consider how you could learn a skill that could open up your schedule. Is it more recreation options? Consider learning a new sport or taking up a new hobby. Is it more meaning in your life? Consider learning about the local needs where you live and where you could lend support.
- What season of life is it? What knowledge or skills would be useful to you at this point in time? Are you a parent of little children, teens, or adults? What could you learn that would improve your parenting and relationships?
- What’s coming up in your life? Are you getting your first job or getting married? If so, then brushing up on your financial literacy would be a great idea. Are you ready to retire? Then consider learning about service missions, encore career options, or approaches to travel.
- What’s missing? Are you well-rounded? What would help you be a more balanced person? If you are a scientific type, maybe you should consider learning some of the humanities. Or if you are more artistic, consider learning more about the sciences.
2. Challenge Yourself
We all fall into patterns. This is natural, but it may cause you to miss out on enriching opportunities. Consider things that would pull you out of your comfort zone. Here are some ideas:
- Learn a second language. The ability to talk to others in another language feels like a super power. It can open up a whole new world literally and figuratively. At least a couple times a month, I work with Spanish speaking people in my medical practice. Our center provides interpretive services, but when I launch into Spanish, their eyes light up. They request me the next time they come back. Learning another language is challenging, but highly rewarding, and it will stretch your mind.
- Learn a new skill. You probably have some go-to talents that you pretty happy with. These are things you picked up in high school and college. But what have you picked up since? Maybe it’s time to add some new skills to your repertoire. Here are some to consider. Learn to cook a fantastic meal. Learn to take excellent photographs. Learn to paint. Learn to be an engaging public speaker. Learn to play a musical instrument.
- Read classic literature. If you were like me, you didn’t much enjoy your first teenage acquaintance with William Shakespear, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Bronte sisters. But, now that you’ve got a few years under your belt, why not give a few of them another go? They are classics for a reason. Pull yourself away from your Facebook feed or the latest pop fiction novel and see what kind of writing has stood the test of time.
3. Make a Plan
Now that you have some ideas of what you want to learn, it’s time to make a plan. Just like a semester in college, consider mapping out a few books or courses you want to get through in the next 4 months. You could give certain days of the week a theme so you don’t have to decide what to do in the moment. For example, Mondays could be for financial; Tuesdays for history; Wednesdays for a new skill; Thursdays for literature; and Fridays for science. The idea is that you have a framework so you don’t have to decide. Or you could focus on one thing per month.
4. Create Space
Now that you have some ideas, how are you going to fit it in? It’s not like you have extra time laying around, right? Well, maybe you do.
- “Recover” your commute time. Stop listening to the radio, and queue up a few podcasts or audio books. You will be amazed what you can learn and “read” in even minutes a day.
- Create a commute. So maybe you don’t drive to and from work every day. Congratulations. However, even though you are “saving” that time, you are missing out on something I consider one of the best times of my day. Sure, you are better off not sitting in traffic burning gas, but you don’t get an hour of uninterrupted time to learn and think like I do. So, what do you do? Create a commute. No, not with your car, but take a walk around your neighborhood block, or go for a hike. Put on your earbuds, and you guessed it, queue up your favorite learning podcast or audiobook. Use it as a way to transition between tasks. This approach is especially useful for stay-at-home moms or people who work from home.
- Trade time late at night for early morning. I’ve told you before, the early morning has gold in its mouth. For me, sixty minutes in the early morning is worth 120 minutes at the end of the day. The stuff you are doing from 9:00-11:00 PM is usually mindless and reactive. The stuff you do at 5 am is usually thoughtful and proactive.
- Eliminate TV. This is pretty self-explanatory. Consider all the time you could recover if you eliminated mindless television watching.
5. Involve a Friend
Getting someone else involved can both help to motivate and make it more enjoyable. Read a book with someone and then discuss it when you’re done. Attend a community course together. Pick up a new sport with your spouse or friend.
In the next post, I’ll share some of the best learning resources I’ve found.
What do you think? What would help you be more well-rounded? What knowledge or skills would be helpful for you right now? How do you organize your personal learning? How do you use your commute time? Share below!