As 2018 rapidly approaches, everyone is thinking about New Years’ resolutions. Some people like to make the point that resolutions can be made all-year long, and that’s totally valid. But even though we shouldn’t need a new year to work on ourselves, and even though resolutions can seem cliché, this time of year really is a great opportunity to start fresh and look forward to what we want to accomplish in the coming year.
I like to make a few resolutions each year, but there’s one that I keep every single year: Keep learning. More specifically – challenge yourself to learn a new skill every year – one that’s significant (i.e. something else other than being able to balance your fidget spinner on your nose). More importantly, I’m not just talking about my own industry. Of course, everyone should strive to keep on top of their respective industries’ trends and learn the new skills that become necessary as technology progresses. But this resolution is literally just about learning. Learning anything new.
On a physiological level, learning new things is good for your brain. According to CCSU Business & Development, practicing a new skill increases the density of your myelin, or the white matter in your brain that helps improve performance on a number of tasks. Additionally, learning new skills stimulates neurons in the brain, which forms more neural pathways and allows electrical impulses to travel faster across them. The combination of these two things helps you learn better. It can even help you stave off dementia.
Learning a new skill is pretty much how I decided what I wanted to do with my life. Growing up in Canada, ice hockey was my passion. Flying down the ice made me feel, well, like I could fly, and more than anything, it was fun.
But when I fractured my knee, I couldn’t play ice hockey anymore. If you didn’t know, the sport is pretty rough, so continuing with that was out. And with the injury, any sort of athletic activity was totally off the table. I wound up spending a lot of time in my room, on my computer, which is when I learned how to design. This led me to starting my first business in web design, and the rest is history.
Recently, I learned how to scuba dive. I had always been fascinated by new environments. The idea of being able to breathe underwater was exhilarating to me. The course was not long, only a couple days. It covered the standard stuff – safety measures, basic skills on how to handle your equipment, and what to do in an emergency. The instructors were more focused on getting us in the water as soon as possible. There was no way to read about the mindset you needed to be in while underwater. The biggest lesson I learned was around not panicking when panic felt so natural. They intentionally make you take off your gear and mask underwater. They show you what to do when you run out of air. It’s all designed to make you feel comfortable, and to not panic and struggle – which will only use more air and make your time under the surface more and more limited. What did I take away from this? That in any line of work, there is no reason to panic. That it will only make everyone around you panic. That there is almost always a way out, even if the solution is atypical.
Acquire a New Mindset
Not only did these lessons serve as a strong reminder to an important mindset to have in business and in life, they also helped me recharge my mind. Even though we always think of recharging as synonymous with relaxation, sometimes to best way to recharge is to throw yourself into something that takes your mind off of the day to day. I didn’t go into scuba diving thinking it would make me a better problem solver, or help me overcome inhibitions in my work or anything like that. But naturally, learning something entirely new, without the pressure of it being directly correlated to my career, refreshed my mind and helped me think of things differently.
So when you’re looking forward to the new year, think about something totally amazing that you want to learn more about. Maybe you want to learn how to cook or master a new language. Whatever it is, and regardless of its direct application to your career, learning something new can only help you. New year, new skills.