I’m always interested when people start talking about their school experiences as a kid. Of course you hear the stories from the playground, traumatic bullying experiences and lunch table debates. But I think my favorite stories are when people start talking about the classes they hated. I’m not sure why it is, but math always seems to be a favorite horror subject that I hear. (Probably because I work on a creative team and math isn’t traditionally our thing.)
I’m sure you’ve heard from countless people how they just couldn’t grasp calculus or how they still don’t know or really care to know how to use a semicolon; some even hate the thought of the Periodic Table of Elements. (P.S. That’s the right way to use the semicolon.)
What’s interesting is that when you hear those stories about how much people hated classes, you also find they probably didn’t do very well in those subjects. That seems like a no-brainer, but the reason that’s the case is actually pretty interesting.
When we’re curious, we’re much more likely to learn and retain what we’ve learned.
Neuron’s October 22, 2014 issue published an article that drew the connection between curiosity and learning retention. In fact, when we’re curious, our brain chemistry actually changes, which is what leads us to learn more effectively. We learn even more from a state of intrinsic curiosity than when we’re being rewarded for what we’ve learned.
Boiled down to your life as a member of the workforce, that means that when something piques your interest, you’re going to learn about it and keep that knowledge. But if you’re learning something new because your boss told you you’d get a raise, you’ll have more difficulty retaining what you learned. Your curiosity is the most powerful learning tool you have, even more than the almighty dollar.
That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t get to decide the things you need to learn? Sometimes you have to learn to keep up or adjust to a new setting or system. So what do you do in those times? Stay curious.
That same research from Neuron also found that people were more likely to learn less-interesting material when they were already in a state of curiosity. When we live in a place of curiosity, our brains are already ready to learn and retain information, so we can more easily learn the less-interesting things. The math, chemical compounds and semicolons that we couldn’t care less about go from a mystery in our minds to an area we know. We feed our brains the information it wants when we’re curious and then we sneak in something less interesting every once in a while.
So as you take on today, think about what interests you. What are the things you’ve been wondering about? What are you curious about? Find those things and feed that curiosity. Go down the rabbit hole on the internet and learn those things that you’ve always wanted to know. Not only are you going to learn and enjoy what you want to be researching, but you’ll be ready to learn when you’re required. You’ll be broadening your horizons and becoming the go-to, 1,000-Hour Pro for everyone around you.