Open yourself up
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The first step to learning is accepting that we don’t know very much at all.
To accept and absorb new information, you need to be open to it. We all hold misconceptions and biases, even if we don’t realise them. We may even have internalised prejudice and harmful thoughts, and acknowledging them is part of shedding them. It’s almost impossible to wipe your mind clean of any trace of toxic ideas, but being aware that our blindspots and misconceptions may be holding us back or warping our perspectives is a step in the right direction.
Accepting that you don’t know it all and aren’t always right will free up space in your mind to be filled with more useful things. Additionally, accept that you’ll never know it all, and your mind, much like the universe, is constantly changing and growing. It is impossible for the human mind to comprehend the complexity of the world, and our thinking and perspective are limited by our reality and our experiences.
Think of all the ways you can consume new information. The world is your buffet and you can satiate your hunger for information in an infinite amount of forms.
Read! Read books, both fiction and non-fiction. Read biographies of people who suffered hardships. Read the news. Read magazines. Read academic journals. Read blogs. Read aggressively, devouring books like an unattended child at a birthday party devours sweets. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Attend seminars and conferences. Watch YouTube videos. Watch documentaries.
Utilise the internet. It isn’t all great, but there is valuable information available. You can access information from a number of reliable sources, connect with people from all around the world, play educational brain-enriching games, attend online university courses, discover news stories that didn’t make it to the newspapers or news broadcasts, and more… for free!
Seek new educational opportunities
Learn a skill or obtain a degree that will open up both your mind and your job prospects. The things you learn in education carry you through life, and these days you can get a university degree without setting foot on campus. You can broaden your horizons and your mind from home by doing something like an online health course.
Experience the world
Our physical environment is incredibly influential in shaping our perspective and worldview. Experiencing a new location literally opens up our minds to a whole new world. Travelling is a great way to immerse yourself in a new culture. Experience the wildlife, food, traditions, history, and culture of a new place and get a taste of what life would be like if you had been born elsewhere.
Travelling is not the only way to experience a new culture. The internet has made it easier for us to connect with those near and far, and with a few clicks, you can speak to someone on the other end of the world. Interest yourself in other countries from your own home even without befriending their residents. Read news stories focused on other places and learn about the history, literature and politics of places outside your bubble.
Talk and Listen
Other people are one of your most valuable resources. Everyone you meet will have a different life story, a different opinion, and a different reality. When you talk to people, don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Listen. Really listen to what they have to say, take it in, think about it. Ask questions, and truly hear the answers.
Don’t treat others like a sideshow or use their differences as your own learning opportunity, but do show a genuine and well-intentioned interest in the people you talk to, while respecting their boundaries and cues.
Many people have something to say, especially those who have gone through significant hardship. A large portion of the people you meet will have some sort of cause they believe in or something they aim to raise awareness for. You don’t have to dedicate your life to the same cause, and it’s ok to stop someone from dumping on you if your mental health can’t handle it right now. But listening respectfully and sincerely to what people have to say will give you a new perspective on a situation (or on life in general) while allowing the other person to feel heard.
Diversify your social life
Many of us have a group of friends who are relatively similar to ourselves. Usually, we don’t do this on purpose, but it stands to reason that the circumstances in which we meet potential friends will unwittingly exclude certain people or groups. Attending a selective private school will eliminate the opportunity to socialise with people of different socioeconomic standing, for example.
You don’t have to deliberately go out and meet people that tick all the diversity boxes, but stepping outside your usual social circle and meeting others will broaden your perspective and understanding. Joining a club or class for one of your hobbies, talking to coworkers who are on different “levels” of the company, and utilising social media to connect with different kinds of people are all ways to diversify your social life. You don’t even need to befriend people to learn about their life and culture- social media allows us to “follow” people from all different backgrounds and circumstances.
Try new things
This may be the most generic piece of advice ever, but really- try new things. Step outside your comfort zone. You never know what may take your fancy and lead you to go down a different path of opportunities.