3 Tips For How to Keep Learning As An Adult.


Since leaving Uni I’ve found it really difficult – despite all of my best intentions – to keep learning as an adult.

Uni helped me 1. learn new things, 2. learn how to learn new things and 3. unlearn stupid things. This is much harder to do without accountably and structure.

Seven years later however, and I’m going through something of a personal learning renaissance! This has been like wearing tumble dried socks after walking in sandals through the rain: Heaven.

Here are three really simple things that I’ve been doing that have been helping me to learn new things, exercise how to think and learn how to break bad thinking habits. Maybe you could try them too?

1. Watch TED constantly.

TED brings the best communicators and thinkers from around the world and gives them a very short amount of time to blow away their audiences. The talks have to be properly researched, thoroughly thought-through and creatively presented. Easy, digestible and discussable mental stimulation.

2. Learn to speed read …. properly.

I had to speed read a lot in Uni because our reading lists were simply terrifying! This was usually skimming through for key words and quotes while quickly digesting conclusions. However, by utilising peripheral vision theory of word groups and following lines properly I’ve sped up my reading time about 40% – reading EVERY word! This means I can read more intently, widely and quickly.

3. Write as a job.

I’m now a part-time freelance writer for startups and charities. I have to research an incredible breadth of topics so that I can write in the required voices and sound like an authority in any given topic. I have to sound like the client who obviously does know their trade and market. Just this past month I’ve written for a world class robotics firm, a martial arts academy, a private tuition agency and a start up exterior plastering trade. Writing with the pressure of a client means you have to research, think and communicate on several different levels.

Final thoughts.

The smartest people that I’ve ever met are incredibly convicted but not at all black-or-white. I think the more of complexity you understand the more scope you will give to variables. Thinking is a gift; one that I take very seriously…. some of the time. It’s well worth getting gritty with our brains and learning how to think critically, communicate clearly and understand compassionately. These three C’s will eventually save civilisation. I hope.

11 Thinking Errors, Mistakes and Immaturities… with solutions!


I love thinking about thinking! Critical thinking, epistemology, psychology of the mind – anything(!) that delves into the whys and hows of our thought processes. So we’re going to have a stab at that today!

I’m still in my study week but have been taking a step out of youth ministry topics to look at some behavioral psychology bits n’ pieces. It’s here that I stumbled across ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Dummies‘ by Rob Willson and Rhena Branch.

Books in the ‘For Dummies’ series are a wee bit of a mixed bag. Some are absolute brilliant, but others are either too simple to really be necessary or too complex, so that they’re really just post-grad manuals with friendly yellow covers. CBT For Dummies though is a good un… or at least the first three chapters that I’ve read of it are!

I’m going to use this post to summarize the really helpful chapter 2; ‘Spotting Errors in Your Thinking.’ Thinking is a skill and a tool that we need to refine and sharpen and it is massively conditioned and influenced by circumstance. Many of our difficulties and struggles in fact stem largely from our own thinking and perspective issues. Thinking both positively and correctly (or at least aware of error) can dramatically change one’s lot in life and subsequent responses to it.

It’s worth saying that – carefully done – working through a thinking error with a struggling young person can be incredibly liberating and healing for them… so, we can call this post a little bit youth work related.


So here are their 11 ‘thinking errors’ – simplified and summarized.


1. Making Mountains Out of Molehills

Explanation: Taking a minor negative event and trumping it up into all sorts of catastrophic imaginary disasters.

Example: You’re waiting for your teenager daughter to return home after an evening at the cinema with friends. The clock strikes 10:00 p.m., and you hear no reassuring rattle of the key in the door. By 10:05 p.m., you start imagining her accepting a lift home from a friend who drives recklessly. At 10:10 p.m., you’re convinced she’s been involved in a head-on collision and paramedics are at the scene. By 10:15 p.m., you’re weeping over her grave.

– Put your thoughts in perspective – see the bigger picture.
– Consider less terrifying explanations – what’s more likely?
– Weigh up the evidence – does it really add up to that?!?– Focus on what you can do to cope with the situation – take control of your thought space.


2. All-Or-Nothing / Black-Or-White

Explanation: Extreme thinking leading to extreme emotions and behavior. Everyone either loves or hates you, or something is either perfect or a disaster.

Example: You’re studying for a degree course and you fail one module. All-or-nothing thinking makes you decide that the whole endeavour is pointless. Either you get the course totally right or it’s just a write-off.

– Be realistic – There is a whole world between hot and cold. Forgive slips and refocus on the goal.- Develop ‘both-and’ reasoned thinking – Allow mentally two opposites to exist together.


3. Fortune-Telling

Explanation: Predicting (through superpower extrasensory perceptions) disastrous consequences to a future event.

Example: You’ve been feeling a bit depressed lately and you aren’t enjoying yourself like you used to. Someone from work invites you to a party, but you decide that if you go you won’t have a good time. The food will be unpalatable, the music will be irksome, and the other guests are sure to find you boring. So, you opt to stay in and bemoan the state of your social life.

– Test out your predictions – have a go and see the future unfold for itself (see what actually happens).
– Be prepared to take risks – taking calculated risks and living experimentally.
– Understand that your past experiences don’t determine your future experience.


4. Mind-Reading

Explanation: The tendency to assume that others are thinking negative things about you or have negative motives and intentions.

Example: You pass a neighbour on the street. He says a quick hello but doesn’t look very friendly or pleased to see you. You think that he must be annoyed with you about your dog howling at the last full moon and is making plans to report you to environmental health.

– Generate some alternative reasons for what your see – there’s a whole other life in front of you after all.
– Consider that your guesses may be wrong – do you have the evidence you need to make those conclusions?- Get more information – ask questions.


5. Emotional Reasoning (Feelings = Facts!)

Explanation: Feelings are hard evidence for the way thing are and are relied upon heavily as a guide down the ‘reality’ path.

Example: Your feel guilty out of the blue. You conclude that you must have done something wrong otherwise you wouldn’t be feeling guilty.

– Take notice of your thoughts and feelings – recognize that feelings are not always the best measure of reality.
– Ask yourself questions – like ‘how would I view this situation if I were feeling calmer?’
– Give yourself time to allow your feelings to subside.


6. Overgeneralising

Explanation: Drawing massive conclusions from one or two events – using words like ‘always’ and ‘never.’

Example: You feel down. When you get into your car to go to work, it doesn’t start. You think to yourself, ‘Things like this are always happening to me. Nothing ever goes right’, which makes you feel even more gloomy.

– Get a little perspective – if the word ‘always’, or ‘never’ justified really?
– Suspend judgment – judging leads to more feelings of isolation and renders you less able to deal with things.
– Be specific – Can you legitimately make sweeping statements from this single event? What does it actually say?


7. Labeling and Rating

Explanation: Giving yourself or others tags such as ‘no good’, ‘useless’, ‘worthless’ or ‘inferior’. Legitimizing negative responses to yourself or others.

Example: You become angry when someone cuts in front of you in a traffic queue. You label the other driver as a total loser for his bad driving.

– Allow for varying degrees – there is always more going on.
– Celebrate complexities – all humans are unique and ever-changing.
– Remove your own labels – labeling means things can’t change, when you remove the label you give powerful room for potential change and growth.


8. Mental Filtering / Having a Closed Mind

Explanation: Bias in how you process information – you only acknowledge information that fits with a belief that you hold.

Example: You believe you’re a failure, so you tend to focus on your mistakes at work and overlook successes and achievements. At the end of the week, you often feel disappointed about your lack of achievement – but this is probably largely the result of you not paying attention to your successes.

– Examine your filters closely – what information are you not letting through?
– Gather evidence – would your assertions stand up in court?


9. Disqualifying The Positive

Explanation: A biased mental action that either ignores a positive event or transforms it into a neutral or negative event.

Example: You believe that you’re worthless and unlovable. You respond to a work promotion by thinking, ‘This doesn’t count, because anyone could get this sort of thing.’ The result: Instead of feeling pleased, you feel quite disappointed.

– Become aware of your responses to positive ‘data’ – practice acknowledging and accepting positive feedback.
– Practice accepting a compliment graciously with a simple thank you.


10. Low Frustration Tolerance

Explanation: Assuming that when something is difficult to tolerate it’s ‘intolerable’ thus magnifying the discomfort.

Example: You want to overcome your anxiety of travelling away from home by facing your fear directly. And yet, each time you try to travel farther on the train, you become anxious, and think ‘This is so horrible, I can’t stand it’, and quickly return home, which reinforces your fear rather than helping you experience travel as less threatening.

– Pushing yourself to do things that are uncomfortable or unpleasant.
– Giving yourself messages that emphasise your ability to withstand pain.


11. Personalising

Explanation: Interpreting events as being related to you personally – or making yourself the centre of the universe.

Example: You may tend to feel guilty if you know a friend is upset and you can’t make him feel better. You think, ‘If I was a really good friend, I’d be able to cheer him up. I’m obviously letting him down.’

– Imagine what else may have contributed to the outcome you’re assuming personal responsibility for.
– Consider why people may be responding to you in a certain way – without jumping to the conclusion that it relates directly to you.