Do you have a friend or colleague who always seems to be the smartest person in the room? Someone who is always growing and becoming more amazing?
Some people seem to have “learning” down to a science.
It might seem like only smart people can learn anything. “Oh, she is so smart, she is always picking up new hobbies” or “he seems like he is good at everything he tries”.
What no one may have told you is that one learning style does not fit all, and the vast majority of information is delivered only for a few learning styles. Learning how to be smart has everything to do with where you shine.
Smart people are not all the same. People who are always learning are the ones who have figured out how to make growth a priority in their life. They are learned how to learn — in a way that works for them.
You can do it too. Here is how to be smart and set yourself up for success.
What type of learner are you?
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences says that there are 7 identifiable different types of intelligences. In other words, there are at least 7 distinctly different ways to be “smart” and to absorb new information, that we know of.
- Visual-Spatial – you think in terms of physical space, like architects and sailors. Very aware of their environments.
- Bodily-Kinesthetic – you can control and use your body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. Keen sense of body awareness.
- Musical – you show sensitivity to rhythm and sound. Love music, but also sensitive to sounds and vibrations in their environments.
- Interpersonal – you connect easily with people and understand social dynamics. Learn best through interaction with other people.
- Intrapersonal – you are clear and focus on your own interests and goals. These learners tend to shy away from others.
- Linguistic – you understand and use words adeptly. These learners have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words.
- Logical-Mathematical – you are logical, reasoning, and calculating. Think conceptually, and are able to quickly grasp patterns and relationships.
Do any of these sound like you? Maybe a few?
It’s not always easy to know what category you fall into, and this is also not a hard science. You might feel like 2 or even 3 different kinds of learners at different times.
To help you zero in on what kind of learning most correctly fits you, take our short quiz below:
True – very relevant to my daily experience.
False – the absolutely opposite of my daily experience.
N/A – neither relevant or irrelevant to my daily experience.
- Visual-Spatial: When I have free time, I love to browse through photos or walk around beautiful neighborhoods.
- Bodily-Kinesthetic: My favorite activities are very physical and coordinated: running obstacle courses, yoga, skateboarding, rock climbing, recreational sports, and dancing just to name a few!
- Musical: I always have to have music on – when I’m studying, when I’m cleaning the house, the sound is what keeps me going.
- Interpersonal: Even when I’m by myself, I can rarely help from talking to others. Especially when I’m around groups or like-minded folks, I like to ask them questions and converse on a wide range of subjects.
- Intrapersonal: I do my best work when I’m in a quiet, secluded environment. Being alone gives my brain space to imagine and come up with new ideas.
- Linguistic: Sometimes I surprise myself when I’m talking to others, synthesizing ideas into concepts and solutions before I’ve even thought about it. Some say I’m a great improviser.
- Logical-Mathematical: Even though I’m not specifically trained in something, I can often figure it out if I sit with it and study how it works.
To the statements you answered “True,” it’s likely that you would benefit from focusing your efforts on those mediums for learning.
To those you answered “N/A”, consider experimenting with those mediums for learning to see if any of them come naturally, but don’t worry if they don’t.
To those that you answered “False,” you’ve just discovered your educational achilles heel. Avoid those ones as much as you can, and if they are unavoidable (if, for example, a work training is only offered in one format) then come prepared with ways to make it work better for you.
Imagine that you are an interpersonal learner (which is what I am) trying to learn a new skill through a video learning series, sitting alone in your house with headphones on. I can report from personal experience that this was a huge failure for me.
To help make that experience better, I might follow up that video training by meeting with my manager or a peer to have a conversation about what I learned. By verbalizing my experiences, it helps them stick with me and synthesize with everything I already know.
Being smarter is not a one-size-fits-all process.
You don’t want to feel like you’re investing time and energy into something that isn’t working. Once you know what kind of learner you are, you can start pursuing your goals in a way that will actually work for you. That comes next.
Now that you know what type of learner you might be, here’s how to learn anything
Why would you seek information in a language you don’t understand? You wouldn’t, which is why it won’t do you much good to seek information and education presented in a learning style that doesn’t serve you.
When you have in mind something you’d like to learn: a skill, a trade, or anything; seek ways to learn and absorb the information in ways you easily understand. Along your learning journey, you’ll want a few tools to support your retention of everything you learn.
Even these tools can be tailored to your inherent intelligence.
Your Lifelong Learner Toolkit:
As we move through our learning journey, information will come to us in an unimaginable variety of fashions. You’ll hear things, talk to people, stumble upon a resource, see an ad, etc…and you’ll need a place to collect all of your findings.
Recommendations for each learning style:
- Visual-Spatial, Logical-Mathematical, Intrapersonal, Linguistic: A notebook, binder, or digital note collection where you write summaries of your learnings, save pictures and articles, and can revisit easily.
- Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal: Join a group of like-minded individuals and talk regularly about what you’re learning. Recording your conversations may be helpful if you have a bit of the musical learning style in your arsenal.
- Musical, Interpersonal, Linguistic: Make a video collection summarizing what you’re reading, watching, learning, and discovering. Save the links and resources in a collection attached to the video, like on a YouTube channel or on a blog, but focus heavily on relaying concept verbally and through auditorily-stimulating activity.
Outlet for Practice and Mastery
While some of us may have dreaded writing the end-of-term essay that summarized everything we learned in a particular class, practicing what we’re absorbing and charting your progress is essential to learning anything.
(After all, if you never reflect on where you are, you will never know far far you’ve come!)
Don’t limit yourself to just one outlet. Challenge yourself to find better ways to record and apply your knowledge.
Find ways to incorporate your learning into your daily life in small but consistent ways. You will go much further making steady progress each day, rather than trying to take huge leaps on a less regular basis.
Recommendations for each learning style:
- Visual-Spatial, Intrapersonal, Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical: Produce visually-stimulating collections of knowledge, experiences, attempts, and learned concepts over the course of your study. For some, sketching and cartoons; for others, collages and models; for those who lean toward the linguistic style, producing written summaries and documents that could inform others will inspire information retention.
- Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Linguistic: Go “through the motions” of what you’re learning. This could be the physical act of moving, creating, exploring, or doing. It may mean acting out or delivering a spoken account of your educational journey. If you can involve your hands or other physical capacity in the practice of your study, you’ll retain much more efficacy in the long run.
- Musical, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal: Create auditory expressions of the concepts discovered and lessons learned. Make your own TED-style talk, record bytes of your own explanation of your study. Share these with others if you lean toward interpersonal learning.
Once you’ve outfitted your toolkit with these two crucial elements, you’re ready to go forth and learn anything you put your mind to. Seek information that is delivered in the learning styles that appeal to you, and when you come upon a subject or medium that you can’t seem to grasp, take a step back.
Is there another way I can have this information presented to me? What questions should I ask in order to understand this in my learning style?
Continue to ask questions and you’ll never stop learning.