The Truth About Memory and Learning (Accelerated Learning Part 1)

They call it “Accelerated Learning” because you learn faster when you’re relaxed, interested, motivated, and learning in your particular Learning Style. But they should really call it “Authentic Learning” because the principles of “Accelerated Learning” aren’t really tricks or hacks to make our brains remember more faster, they are simply excellent learning methods that we should always be employing in all of our learning.

When you hear the words “Accelerated Learning” for example, perhaps you think that if you just perform the right actions at the right times, you’ll double or triple your memory ability. This is only partially true. While there are some things that we can do to dramatically increase our memory ability in a short time, they are not tricks and they are not secrets.

In fact, there’s a reason why we say that children’s brains are as absorbent as sponges. The way children naturally learn is in the “Accelerated Learning” (or “Authentic Learning” style). When children learn, they are using all of their senses, relaxed and enjoying the material, and putting it to immediate use after learning it.

Unfortunately for adults however, somehow in the process of growing up and becoming “educated” many of us have come to the wrong conclusions about learning: that it’s difficult, no fun, and entirely book-based (and that we must read books entirely word-by-word, cover-to-cover to learn). But if we observe children, and if we attune our minds toward learning like children, we may also find that our brains are far more capable than we’d originally thought.

The Truth about Learning and Memory

Here is the truth about learning and memory. We can remember:

  1. only 20% of what we read
  2. 30% of what we hear
  3. 40% of what we see
  4. 50% of what we say
  5. 60% of what we do
  6. a whopping 90% of what we see, hear, say, and do

So, how can we combine more of our senses to learn? This is also why children’s games and activities that include phrases, songs, and body actions are so effective for children’s learning. Not only is it fun, but it involves body, brain, ears, eyes, and mouths. Granted, as we get older and become more “sophisticated” this multi-sensory learning method that we do with children tends to fall by the wayside, but why should it? Just because we feel too “dignified” to sing and dance and learn doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to get our bodies and brains in sync as we learn, reflect, and think.

A Body in Motion

Take a look at the lives of some of the greatest composers of all time, for example. Oliver Burkeman for the Guardian newspaper has reported on some of the daily habits of history’s most creative minds:

There’s no shortage of evidence to suggest that walking – especially walking in natural settings, or just lingering amid greenery, even if you don’t actually walk much – is associated with increased productivity and proficiency at creative tasks.

This is particularly true of some of history’s greatest composers – Beethoven, Mahler, Erik Satie, and Tchiakovsky, as Mason Currey discovered in his book (that Burkeman reviewed) Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work. Of Tchiakovsky, he writes:

[He] believed he had to take a walk of exactly two hours a day and that if he returned even a few minutes early, great misfortunes would befall him.

There are a number of reasons why getting up and moving around – walking, exercising, or just getting away from your desk – are beneficial:

  1. Bodily motion activates different parts of your brain and enables you to use more of your brain at once or in close correlation with what you’re learning.
  2. You have a tendency to be less distracted when your body is in motion.
  3. The greater brain activation and less distraction avails your mind to more creative thoughts and inspiration.
  4. Taking a break to get up and move and later return to review and continue learning your subject enables you to more quickly transfer what you’re learning into your long-term memory.

Learn Faster by Doing It More Often

In fact, most people find it difficult to fully concentrate on a task for more than about 20-30 minutes at a time. And research indicates that we remember best what we learn at both the Beginning and the End of a learning session, but the in-between can become muddied – particularly if we focus too long on a particular thing.

Therefore, it just makes sense to take breaks during our learning. Not only will we activate more of our brains by getting up and walking around, but we will also create more Beginnings and more Endings in our learning sessions. This will make each session more memorable, as well as give us an opportunity to briefly review the previous session before moving on.

Some of the best advice I ever received about improving yourself in a certain area was from Jim Rohn:

If you want to get better at anything, do it more often. Don’t do it longer, do it more often.

My Example

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of study related to Accelerated Learning. I find it fascinating (and promising) to think that I can double or triple my memory retention and learning speed! So, here are a few things I’ve been working on lately to help (each of these will become the focus of a blog post at some time in the future):

  1. Coupling Auditory Learning with Physical Exercise (riding my bike to work while listening to books on tape)
  2. Finding and Focusing on my Personal Learning Style
  3. Breaking up both my Physical and Intellectual Workouts into more Sessions (requiring less time per Session) throughout the Day
  4. Using my Alarm to Set 10:00 Timers for Brief Review and Preview Sessions for Various Subjects
  5. Using my “Downtime” to Review
  6. Momentum is Focused Intensity and Perseverance over Time

I’ve personally always felt like I had a great memory (near photographic in some instances). But to think that I could make it even better really encourages me learn and share as much as I can on this subject (actually, Teaching what you’re Learning as you’re Learning it is another secret to improved memory retention).

How about you? Have you always wanted to have a Super Memory?

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