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What is self-education? As the name suggests, it is the act of teaching yourself. Of learning what you want to learn, based on a structure you create.
It can take the form of already-laid-out courses, or eclectic rabbit-holes of reading, or simply observing things you want to understand. It can be a mixture of all that and more.
5 Benefits of Self-Education
Why does educating yourself matter? Basically, it’s the key that will unlock your future.
So, you know, kind of a big deal.
A bit less dramatically, self-education means continuous self-improvement. Not only will that help you reach goals in your career or entrepreneurship, but it will provide a sense of personal resiliency. In all aspects, it will encourage you to become the best version of yourself.
- Boost confidence
Self-education will build your self-esteem, self-assurance and inner confidence.
- Learn persistency
The process of educating yourself will also teach you the benefits of persistence: the joy that comes with seeing results of practise and discipline.
- Cultivate discipline
Discipline is the older, steadier big sister of motivation. While motivation can be fickle, discipline will get results no matter your mood or circumstance.
- Uncover opportunities
Unforeseen opportunities lurk beneath every new field of knowledge. You might be working towards a set goal or casting about for a new path; either way, you might be surprised by what presents itself.
- Broaden perspective
You will see the bigger picture: on life, learning, the world around you and your own personal potential.
10 Methods of Self-Education
That all sounds great. But how do you become self-educated?
Here are some starting points.
What interests you? Pinpoint it and start to cultivate a curiosity. Explore the facets of the subject, find out the specializations within, follow the news surrounding it. All this will give you a great launch pad for your further self-education.
Read (or listen)
Books, including audio books (they’re not inferior, don’t let the bougie ones tell you otherwise), are windows into other people’s minds and lives. If those minds and lives are full of knowledge you want – well, go get it.
Reading books is also a great way to cultivate patience and calm. Unlike short-form media (like web pages and social media), they require taking time from your usual routine to sit and absorb information. This is great for your self-improvement and mental health.
That’s not to say that the internet doesn’t have its benefits…
Watch and learn
There are loads of great videos and eLearning courses to take advantage of. Some free, some premium; some amateur, some expert. All have their value, but it’s worth curating a playlist that will make the most of your valuable time.
Some good places to start are YouTube University, Udemy, Lynda.com and, of course, the famous TED talks.
Turn on the TV
Sit-coms might not be your best bet here, but there are loads of educational shows worth watching. Documentaries are the obvious place to start; but also consider shows like Shark Tank, which can give you an insight into entrepreneurial mindsets.
Google is a magnificent resource, but it needs using with care. Reading articles online is a useful way to expand your knowledge if you know how to spot reputable sources.
How do you tell? Instinct comes with experience, and here are some tips to start with:
- Is the author named? Reputable articles are rarely anonymous
- Is the date specified? Good education sites aren’t afraid to date their work
- Is the article sourced? Credible authors will cite where they got their info
- Is the writing style professional? Lots of typos or an odd tone of voice are signs of a disreputable site
- What’s the domain? .org, .net and .com domains can be used by anyone; but .edu denotes universities or colleges, while .gov domains are exclusively for (you guessed it) government sources
If in doubt, you can follow-up by checking the information against an offline source (like an encyclopedia or other reference book).
Attend in person
Seek out seminars, workshops and conferences surrounding your desired area of expertise.
Workshops are great for meeting other beginners, as well as learning new skills; conferences allow you to network with people from all levels.
Seminars might sound boring, but active note-taking and participating in Q&As will help you squeeze value and enjoyment out of the experience.
This goes together with attending events, but there are other ways to make contacts.
Meetup groups, local networking events and even social media groups or forums – all fab ways to swap knowledge, cultivate friendships and earn respect amongst peers.
Find a mentor
As I discuss in depth in, in this post-distant mentorship, a mentor is a vital part of self-actualization. Find someone you want to be like within your field of preference. That can be a face-to-face relationship or someone online.
A mentor should help you with knowledge, inspiration and persistence. Watch their talks, listen to their podcasts and, if possible, begin a correspondence.
Find people who are successful in the field you wish to enter. Read their biographies and absorb their work. What are their behaviors? What are their habits? What made them successful?
Pinpoint the common factors and you can start cultivating actionable life changes.
Practice and master
Learning is just the first step. In order to solidify your education, you must practice skills. That can mean writing about them, using them in the field, and – hardest of all – teaching them to others.
Einstein once that that, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” When I learn a new skill or explore a new area of knowledge, I condense it into that kind of pure explanation that means I’ve got it – or I find out I haven’t got there yet!
When it comes to mastering skills, there are many things to consider. Read this guide to mastery for information.
Self-Education > Traditional School
Formal education is important but, in my opinion, self-education plays a greater role in your life. After school, you still have to learn how to apply knowledge, which is part of your self-education.
Additionally, many fields of study – tech and programming especially – changes year-to-year, meaning that experts are constantly in the process of self-education.
While you may access the foundational knowledge at school, self-education is the only path to true mastery of a subject or skill.
The Wrap Up
Self-education is one of the most important building blocks of self-actualization.
It is the grit you need to capitalize on your formal education; the process of finding your purpose and finding the strength to follow it.
Whichever field piques your curiosity, launch into learning with the zest and enthusiasm it deserves. You will come out of it a happier, smarter, more confident human.
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