Learning for the entire duration of your life might sound crazy. Who would choose to forever go to school? In fact, people think that life starts after school. Yet this couldn’t be further from the truth. Lifelong learning has little to do with schooling. It has, however, a lot to do with living.
And to a great extent, a healthy, meaningful life is more than memories and great experiences. Rather, a meaningful life is full of lessons and learning. Either lessons that you learn, or lessons that you teach.
Actually, the possibilities are endless. And, most importantly, you can think about it proactively. First, read a bit about what life-long learning means. Or move straight to 5 ways to get into lifelong learning.
Self-actualize through lifelong learning
Lifelong learning is a process that you control. In fact, there is no lifelong learning without self-direction. Firstly, you need to develop a desire for knowledge. And it can be for personal or professional growth.
Either way, your desire for knowledge should manifest as a mindset. This mindset favours activities such as observing and thinking. Even with all the learning opportunities in the world, you still need the right mindset. Lifelong learning is more than learning for the entire duration of your life.
The reason is simple. Lifelong learning is, above all, a self-reflexive process. Much as it is similar to regular learning, it requires an active interest in the act itself. “Every day from now on is a learning opportunity”. As Maslow would describe it, lifelong learning is self-actualizing.
That’s because lifelong learning involves all processes that help people self-actualize. Everything that helps people become all that they are capable of becoming. To experience everything fully, vividly, selflessly. With full concentration and absorption.
Engaging every context and opportunity as a learning opportunity. As a context for personal growth. Intrinsic learning is especially relevant to how adults learn. It is not surprising. Nearly 70% of all learning happens due to preoccupation or self-interest.
“Apply yourself” is a piece of advice that describes how most of learning happens. It helps us grow and share in ways that help others grow and share. It is truly self-actualization and beyond.
5 ways to get yourself into lifelong learning
Knowledge is not the same thing as information. Information is everywhere, even the material world is, in a sense, information. Knowledge is an intelligent organization of information. Accessible or applicable through intelligent motivation and purpose.
Yet, you can gather knowledge all the time, anytime, anywhere. It is the human reaction to information, to process it and react to it. Conversely, it is human nature to ignore it and discard it as irrelevant.
Lifelong learning is a focalized process. The foci are certain goals, personal or professional. At the same time, it’s an open process. One that allows anything to become a goal in itself. Most of all, this is because lifelong learning is a goal in itself.
There are several steps you can take to ease any sort of learning. Notice how some are simple, reflexive while others are entrenching.
Be deliberate, find your intrinsic motivation and learn
You first need to open yourself to learning opportunities. You need to become deliberate about learning. This is how it starts. Open up and learn. From all the information you come in contact with. Stay positive, let yourself flow with the process. If you try and follow a specific agenda, you might miss on key issues. Be positive, active, patient, and aware that what you are doing is learning. In fact, gorge on the world as it is. Be a sponge.
Be a sponge, absorb everything
Draw from every source you can. Can’t read a book a day? Skim through a book a day. Even better, join a club of book skimmers that share what they’ve skimmed. Sometimes even the random page of a random book may hold the knowledge you don’t know you’ll need. And don’t limit your learning to books.
When working on something that requires only 85% of your focus, play a documentary in the background. When you’re driving to work every day, listen to a podcast. Ask people that you know to teach you a thing or two about what they know. Lifelong learning is a process that starts with an awakening: knowledge is amazing. Ready to take this one step further?
Get out of your comfort zone, step towards new heights
Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to return with new knowledge and skills. Anxious about public speaking? You could register with a local public speaking class. Take this one step further: go for an amateur drama/theater/acting/stand up comedy class. Invite family and friends.
Step away from what makes you comfortable and go towards the uncomfortable: that is how you grow. This is true about physical fitness, and it is true about personal and career development. The lighter version of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. You also score relevant social networking points of your future life and career.
Imagine registering for ballet lessons only to meet your future business partner. Later, the two of you start a successful start-up. The start-up offers an innovative solution to a common problem. And you had the idea because of something you’ve only learned about the day before. Something you read, peeking at the book of a stranger on the subway.
This does happen in real life. And you can let it happen to you, while learning. Moreover, you cannot connect the dots if you don’t have any dots to connect. After all, there are no “one-star” constellations.
Act on your knowledge, share it, teach others
They say there is nothing more gratifying than teaching, and this could very well be true. Teachers engage in some form of lifelong learning. They might be learning about their area of expertise (what they teach) or how to teach it. They also learn about how others learn.
Teaching certainly is the best way to know you have understood something. Be ready to teach it and explain it in such a way that others can understand it. Teaching reiterates concepts and processes and provides you with clarity and intrinsic rewards.
Ask any manager about the value of training. You will get either of two replies, or both. First one will clarify the value to the team: a great learning opportunity. Second one will clarify the value to the trainer. Which is an incredible lifelong learning opportunity. And a way to question yourself and learn from it.
Question and reinforce your knowledge
Keep an open mind. Never assume you know it all. Reflect on what you know. Consider what you don’t know. Ponder on what you can know. And visualize what you may know.
Learn from your mistakes and your accomplishments. You will have a lot to reflect on, particularly if you’ve taught others. This is the end and the beginning of a cycle.
Lifelong learners are the leaders of tomorrow
Our age is not the age of information, even while we have access to enormous amounts of information. Conversely, this is the age of knowledge. And of those who make it their life to develop knowledge.
Staying relevant in any field is nowadays only possible with learning. Hence, being aware of any new developments in your area of expertise is crucial. Otherwise, you risk becoming obsolete.
Staying one step ahead means you can lead from the front. And you can lead through mentoring, counseling and coaching. Eventually, you can contribute to developing others. Mentoring and coaching are elements of social interaction that create bonds. Bonds which transcend the transfer of information and knowledge.