Why You Should Learn By Doing


October 9, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Do you enjoy learning new things? I certainly do.

In particular, I enjoy about learning new ways to better myself and my relationships with others. When I first started on this quest I couldn’t get enough. I read about it all the time on blogs, online magazines and in books. There came a point where everything I read was just a slightly different version of the same thing. I was stuck.

I felt as though I had run out of things to read and ideas to try, yet I didn’t feel any better. I didn’t feel as though I was a better person or that my relationships with others had improved at all. There was something missing. It was the doing.

It wasn’t until I actually started applying what I had learned in the personal development realm to my own life that it started to make a difference. All the lessons, all the truths were suddenly having an impact. There was a huge difference in simply knowing it vs. actually doing it.

If you read all the books, blogs and articles on ice skating you would likely think it’s pretty easy, and it is … in theory. But strap on some skates and step on the ice for the very first time and my bets are that you’d be sitting on the ice a whole lot more than you’d be gracefully gliding around on it. It boils down to the old saying that practice makes perfect.

Here are some of the visible benefits of learning by doing.

    1. You gain a better understanding of what it actually means to do the activity.
      Riding a bike isn’t that hard, if you were to read about the technique in a book or manual. When you hop on however, the subtleties of keeping your balance, steering and maintaining the proper speed become very apparent. These are things you couldn’t learn simply by reading and yet it could be argued that they are the most important things to know.


  • You’ll know if you actually like the activity or not.
    One of the first things I learned about in my quest to simplify and be more organized was the Getting Things Done (GTD) system by David Allen. This is a very popular system and when I was reading the book and reviews I was all for it. I was excited about how this was going to revolutionize the way I kept track of everything in my life. It wasn’t until I actually implemented this system that I realized it wasn’t for me. I know there are a lot of fans of GTD out there but for me it was over complicated and took too much time to initiate and maintain. I would never have thought this system wasn’t for me because I simply loved what I was reading.



  • You know what you can tweak.
    Just because I didn’t like the GTD system as a whole doesn’t mean there weren’t parts of it that I did like. I was able to pick and choose what aspects of the system I could seamlessly integrate with my life. Things like always having a notebook and pen on hand to capture to-do items as they came up, daily and weekly action items, and the next actionable item for any task. Most things aren’t all or nothing and by giving things a try you are better able to decide which aspects are a good fit for you and which aren’t.



  • You get a deeper understanding of the subject.
    When doing something, you are able to apply your unique set of skills, talents and experiences to the activity. As I mentioned in the bike riding example, there are a lot of subtle things you would miss if you simply read about riding a bike. By trying things out, modifying the activity and experimenting you learn first hand what works and what doesn’t. It’s this first hand experience that makes ideas and concepts stick.



  • Learning by doing promotes critical thinking.
    Critical thinking is an important life skill. Reading and taking other people’s word for things doesn’t add much richness to our own life experience and in fact much of what we read or are told is simply not true in certain circumstances. Doing things and experimenting allows you to question the status quo, discover new things, new methods but most importantly critical thinking increases your odds of not clinging to a false belief.


I don’t want to totally down play the role of theoretical knowledge when it comes to learning, it is certainly important. In fact, theoretical and practical knowledge are both extremely important to the learning process and too much time invested in either is not ideal.

Take a bit of time and think about what you are currently learning. Then decide if you’ve been stuck in the theoretical learning camp for a bit too long. If you have been, stop reading about what you want to do and actually do what you want to do.

Written on 10/10/2010 by Sherri Kruger. Sherri writes at Zen Family Habits, a blog celebrating all things family. Sherri also writes on personal development at Serene Journey, a blog dedicated to sharing simple tips to enjoy life Photo Credit: laverrue

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