Everyone is offering a course or a “master class” these days. Whether you are looking for ways to level-up in your life, heal from past trauma, get the next promotion, or are considering your next career move, there is a course out on the internet to teach you how to get there.
Personal development, mentorship, business development, and self-improvement are buzzwords claiming to set you free from the 9 to 5, make you more attractive, or help you “level-up” your life so that you can have the Instagram-perfect life you’ve always dreamed of.
All for an easy 10-week course which you can take at your own pace.
You may have binged on a few of these classes in the hopes of learning something new or gaining a new skill that will be your ticket to success.
But do they actually work and are they worth your time and money?
Worst of all, if you buy into one program, the algorithms on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, and others all start pushing even MORE promotions for courses your way.
Talk about a confusing mess? How are you to cut through everything or get the most out of the courses you just can’t pass up in one lifetime?
It’s All About Your Mind
Ok, I get it. EVERYONE (and I do mean everyone) has been harping on “mindset” for decades. “Choose your attitude,” “think positive,” “just pray,” and on. And on.
By the way, the most annoying one of those is “think positive.” Not only is it grammatically incorrect but if you’re hurling that at someone with depression or anxiety, it’s triggering.
No, I’m not trying to get you to just be more positive in your outlook. As a depression sufferer myself, I already know how much of an uphill battle that it.
Instead, I’m suggesting a learning mindset.
This means instead of just expecting the same old things day in and day out, you look for something different. You try to make connections between different ideas, read about something new, try something new. Even if you re-watch the same movie again (because, hey, who doesn’t want to see Rohan’s charge at the Battle of Pelennor Fields for the 1 millionth time), find a new detail to focus on.
However small or insignificant it may seem.
You don’t have to make that great an effort and you don’t have to completely change up your routine–particularly if that is something which causes you anxiety or triggers one of your trauma responses.
Continuous learning doesn’t have to be anything other than a mental exercise and it doesn’t have to cost you a single dime to foster.
1. Vary Your Mental Diet
Do more than scroll your social media feeds. Just as your food diet should be varied, so should your mental diet. If you read only non-fiction, check out a fiction blog (WordPress.com is a GREAT place to start!), or pick up a book at your local bookstore, or download something from Project Gutenberg.
If you are mostly a fiction reader, pick up a non-fiction book. This is really fun if you also happen to like history because then you can read about the people who wrote your favorite books. Or read about the events that inspired them, the time period in which they lived, or the places they liked to visit. Find new ways to experience your old favorites.
So put down the Harry Potter (temporarily!) and pick up a history of Scotland. Or pick up another Scottish author like George MacDonald. See if you can find any corollaries.
Reading more than just books or just news articles, or just social media posts does something else: it helps your brain recognize and adapt to different styles of writing. The way you write a novel, for instance, is not the same as the way you write a blog post.
A blog post is not the same thing as an academic paper either.
Or a traditional news article.
Keep your brain flexible and read things that are different from your usual. In the thousands of years of human history and the written word, there’s always going to be something new for you to discover.
And you may just find something new that you really like.
2. Set learning as part of your daily intention and/or affirmations.
If you perform any kind of daily ritual such as setting intentions, practicing gratitude, or making affirmations, this is easy enough to work into your routine.
The key is to make it simple and make it unconscious. Because if your subconscious is already programmed to learn, then the rest of you will follow. Internalizing your desire to learn more, just like internalizing your desire to be a kinder person, or be more successful at work is something which most of us don’t really think about. But you have to put a positive spin on it, or you’ll just end up with more of what you don’t want.
The best part about this practice is that you take minimal action. You are creating a reality where you learn. That’s it. You don’t have to actually do anything except have a vision and dream.
Think about how different this is to what we’ve been told to do since our school days.
Study this. Take this test. Get this degree. Pass that exam. Get that job. Work day in and day out. Don’t take a vacation (this is its own pandemic in the United States). Don’t ask for time off. Don’t let your personal life have any space in your professional world.
Everything requires us to leave our internal world behind, kill our dreams, kill our visions, and only focus on the next rung of a ladder which may never end for us.
Sounds exhausting doesn’t it?
So how much simpler is it to just decide that you are going to learn? And you affirm that every single day.
No course required.
3. Expand your field of interests with what you already know.
There are nearly always going to be topics which relate to one another. For instance, am interest in fishing can turn into an interest in different types of fish or fishing gear, this history of a particular branch of fishing, new ways of cooking fish, etc
An interest in cooking can have you trying different cuisines from around the world and setting off for destinations you never thought of visiting before.
This is a common theme on this blog. Whether that’s finding a new way to experience what you are reading, finding a topic in a large book that has real-world implications, or picking up a book of mythology because your favorite fantasy series has references to it, there is always a way to expand your mind based upon what you already know.
And you don’t even have to be a big reader to do it.
Any hobby can translate into a new field of knowledge if you remain open-minded. An interest in politics can translate into an interest in logic and philosophy. An interest in boating can turn into an interest in mechanical engineering.
Should you buy that course?
Ultimately, that is a question only you can answer. I’ve bought my fair share of courses, particularly in the last year. But I make those purchases based upon places where I know I’m stuck.
I bought a mindset course because I was drowning in my depression and I needed something different than what counseling and medication could provide.
I bought I copywriting course because I was suddenly unemployed and I was tired of getting the run-around from the job market.
But neither one of those courses would have done me any good if I hadn’t already made the shift to a continuous learning mindset.
So, if you aren’t already taking steps in your everyday life to expand your learning horizons, then wait for a while before you take the plunge on a new course. You may find in your quest for knowledge that you were looking at the wrong one.
The bottom line? There are tons of good courses and great teachers out there, especially now. But you can buy every course on the market and still not make any progress in your life or career. The best teacher in the world can’t make you a success if you aren’t already committing to your own success.
And that starts with you.
Not with an internet course.