Lifelong learning is the voluntary, self-motivated and continuous acquisition of knowledge and development of skills throughout one’s life. It’s essential for many reasons.
Aside from improving qualifications and boosting employability, continuous learning enhances confidence, broadens perspective and exercises the brain to keep it healthy and alert.
One study published in the Delaware Journal of Public Health found that lifelong learning opportunities help counter cognitive decline or impairment in mental capabilities by increasing mental stimulation and social interaction.
Because of all these remarkable benefits, you probably realize that it pays to be a lifelong learner. However, as with other valuable pursuits, continuous knowledge and skills enhancement require time, effort, patience and commitment.
Tips for Being a Lifelong Learner
If you’re ready to do the work and adopt a lifelong learning mindset, here are several tips to help steer you in the right direction:
Engaging in lifelong learning starts with knowing who you are – your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your goals and motivations.
What areas do you need to enhance? What’s your primary motive for learning? Reflect on these things so you can plan your learning journey accordingly.
Let’s say your main objective is career advancement. Start by identifying specific areas you can work on and relevant learning opportunities that can get you closer to your goal.
Perhaps you can participate in training programs, take online classes or even enroll in certified diploma courses to boost your qualifications, upskill and become more competitive.
Learning comes almost naturally when you’re in school, but what happens when you graduate? To keep the desire to learn alive and burning beyond formal education, you need to stay curious.
Make it a habit to ask questions, seek answers and challenge conventional ways of thinking and doing things, whether you’re working, socializing or relaxing at home.
Remember, the law of gravity stemmed from Sir Isaac Newton’s interest in finding out why an apple fell straight down instead of sideways or upward.
Essentially, there’s always something you can learn. So, keep an open mind and continue seeking opportunities to discover new things and enhance your competencies.
While it may seem counterintuitive, teaching others is one of the best ways to engage in lifelong learning. That’s because you process information differently when you have to explain it to another person compared to when you’re merely learning for yourself.
You become more attentive, spend more time studying the material and searching for related information and feel extra motivated to learn since you want to appear competent and authoritative on the subject matter.
Ultimately, you learn the material better and more profoundly when you teach it to others. You can also enhance valuable skills when you do so, such as organization, presentation, communication, social and leadership skills.
Make Learning a Routine Daily Activity
If you want to be a lifelong learner, learning should not be a mere activity but a way of life. Incorporate it into your daily routine as you would other essential things, like eating and exercising. Be intentional about feeding your mind something of value.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed while commuting to work, you can read a book or listen to a motivational talk or productivity podcast.
Have lunch with colleagues you admire to learn about their journey and work habits that you can emulate.
You can also engage in delightful yet intellectually demanding hobbies that improve your memory function and overall mental well-being, like photography and quilting.
It’s also helpful to train yourself to be mindful of learning opportunities by asking the following questions whenever you start an activity or interact with people:
- What can I learn from this activity?
- What can I learn from this person?
- How can I apply these insights to improve my life?
Reading is an excellent and effective tool to become a lifelong learner, as it sparks curiosity, opens your mind to novel ideas and inspires you to keep improving.
Every book, article, poem, story or essay has something valuable to offer to make you better. That’s why, if you want to succeed in your lifelong learning journey, you need to keep reading.
Perhaps you need help developing a love for reading. Or maybe you want to make the most of this activity. Either way, consider the following tips:
- Select engaging materials at the onset to make you excited about reading. Look for novels, biographies or stories you’re interested in that offer just enough mental challenges to keep your mind working-nothing too taxing.
- Opt for printed books instead of digital copies, as the tactile sensation of holding the material in your hands can help you retain more information and become more immersed in what you’re reading.
- Be extra mindful of what you’re reading. Write down phrases that you like or inspire you and take the time to look up unfamiliar words to enhance your vocabulary.
- Take it easy. If your mind wanders while reading, take a break or gently lead yourself back to the page and continue.
Being a lifelong learner is not a one-shot deal but something that requires time, effort and commitment to keep engaging in learning opportunities and initiatives throughout your life.
While the idea may seem overwhelming, you can make the process simpler and more palatable.
Try using the tips above as a jumping-off point to integrate lifelong learning habits into your daily routine. Or maybe you can also use them as inspiration to create more strategies that fit your situation until continuous learning becomes a natural part of your life.