So much of our early life is engaged in learning that it’s easy to forget once we close up the textbooks and begin to focus on family, friends, and embark on our careers. The good news is that we don’t have to step inside a classroom (though that’s an option!) to maintain our commitment to lifelong learning—and to keep growing. With a little effort and a fresh perspective, becoming a lifelong learner is easily within our reach.
Why keep learning?
Here are a few reasons to keep making learning a priority:
Work On Becoming Your Best Self: Learning is good for your brain, self-esteem, and emotional well-being. When we master something, it’s exciting! Along with a sense of accomplishment, we practice self-care by taking time to invest in personal goals and dreams. Ultimately this effort also makes us a better friend, sister, mother, and partner, positively feeding all the roles we play in our lives.
Professional Necessity: We live in a knowledge-based economy where continually growing our skills and capabilities is essential to success. Companies are sourcing talent from around the world meaning that there’s a good chance our early academic experiences won’t be the only thing we should rely on—especially with an expectation for a lifetime of career success.
You’re More Fun at Cocktail Parties: Being a lifelong learner not only makes you more professionally competitive and emotionally balanced but also a more well rounded person. You become more conversant, sophisticated, and have a better sense of the world. We all have that friend we love chatting with because she is in-the-know on the latest books, seems to always understand how things work, and has a hobby she’s passionate about. Being that person is enriching to those around you and deepens relationships in your life.
How can I commit to lifelong learning?
A great first step to focusing on lifelong learning is to understand that continual learning is both possible and beneficial. But know that there’s no weighty expectation of what you need to achieve in this pursuit, only that you should routinely open yourself up to new ideas, experiences, and challenges. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Ask Yourself A Question: On the first day of the month, come up with a question you’d like to be able to answer by month’s end. Challenge yourself over the next few weeks to gather information about this topic. For example: “What were Margaret Thatcher’s biggest political achievements?” gives you an actionable learning goal as opposed to the vague idea of wanting to learn more about women in politics.
- Use Incidental Time: Some studies suggest an average person spends about an hour and 40 minutes every day on social media. Even if we give ourselves credit for scrolling a news feed every now and then, there are plenty of spare minutes in the day that can be strategically added up toward our learning goals. Time is very likely hiding in your commute or other daily chores that could be used toward these goals. Tip: Think meaningful podcasts over your daily radio show a couple of times a week to implement this tip.
- Play Devil’s Advocate: It may seem easiest to turn to familiar websites, authors, and news sources but actually seeking out information contrary to your beliefs can both expand your horizons and also help you articulate your own belief system. Challenge yourself to watch a foreign news program or even pick up a magazine you wouldn’t normally choose before a long flight.
- Switch Up Girls’ Night (or date night!): Instead of rounding up the gals for book club head out to a lecture or cultural event in your city. The events calendar at your local university, library, or museum can be a great place to start finding things to do. Tack on a dinner or drinks after your event to boost the likeliness you’ll remember the key points of the evening. We often retain information better when we can discuss it with someone or put it into practice right away!
- Employ Mini Mindfulness: Try new things! (Well, obviously.) But truly, learning can be this simple. How many times do we make “choices” that instead are automatic reactions and habits that we carry through with everyday? Bringing mindfulness to the tiny decisions in our lives is an easy way to learn. Instead of running through the day on autopilot, think about the small conscious decisions you can make to explore new things. It can be as easy as skipping over your old standby Pad Thai takeout order and picking something on the menu you can’t pronounce—all to broaden your horizons about a culture and cuisine!
- Try Educational Travel: While every journey has the opportunity to provide lessons, taking an active approach with educational travel is a fun way to blend a passion for adventure with your learning commitment. Companies specialize in these types of adventures and can get pretty specific based on your goals!
- Pick an E-Learning Platform: There are too many awesome e-learning platforms to count, but some of our favorites include TED Talks, The Great Courses, edX, Coursera, and Khan Academy. Bonus points if you talk a friend or partner into joining you to tackle a new topic together!
- Seek Complimentary Skills: If you love the gym, you’re probably already into nutrition as well. But those types of connected interests help us think about the things we already love to do and what related opportunities there are to learn. Obsessed with your new eye-shadow palette? Take an afternoon off from surfing tutorials and instead Google what all those modern renaissance names really refer to or learn how makeup is made.
- Read Like a Student: There’s a big difference between consuming information and actually learning it. Dust off some school skills and try practicing the art of “marginalia.” The goal here is to be an active participant in your reading experience, asking yourself questions and jotting down key “A-ha!” moments that help you really digest what you’re reading.
- Pay Attention to The Little Voice: Sometimes, our hunger for learning is an indication that we are really ready for change in our life. If all the online courses, books, and seminars just aren’t satisfying your interest in a topic, maybe it’s time to consider a career change or look at going back to school. You’re ready!