Lifelong Learning: What, Why, How?
There are so many resources that would have helped me be more awesome than I already am (don’t judge me).
But, I never heard about lifelong learning until I became a teacher. Being a teacher and a scholar, I really value learning. My dad always pushed me to think, and my mom got me anything that I was interested in exploring. Unlike me, though, this is not so much the case for newer generations to be interested in learning more abstract concepts or concrete skills.
That is when school comes in. The classroom is supposed to be the hum of such learning, but it’s not always the case. That hurts me to say. I find that the majority of teachers feel the same way for various reasons. There are many ways to combat this youth complacency without worksheets, due dates, and grades.
As a teacher and adult with enough wisdom to keep me doing the best I can, I think there are so many opportunities to foster this value in younger generations.
That’s m’goal in this post: outlining reasons, ways, and opportunities to be a lifelong learner.
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If you google “lifelong learner”, the first thing on the page is “Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.” I know: Wikipedia is not a credible source; but, it does provide basic directions for someone to find out more. This particular definition gives us a few key features of lifelong learning that we can further investigate to understand it.
Lifelong Learning is “Ongoing”
When something is ‘ongoing’, it has no established endpoint. It keeps going on indefinitely. From the time we’re born, through our childhood (when we learn the most rapidly) and our adolescence, beyond our adulthood, and even into our elder years (old dogs learn tricks if they want to), we naturally learn. As we age, our capabilities to learn something complex may diminish, but you never stop learning something about the world around you.
Retirement years and elder age are the other pinnacles of learning opportunities because we have the time to learn. It can be very difficult to study something and devote time to truly apply it in our adulthood. Once the kids are gone and our careers are maxed, we have more time to devote to those things we love (hopefully). Essentially, lifelong learning potentially never ends.
Lifelong Learning is “Voluntary”
Here’s the tricky one. Most of us associate school with learning; we mistake the classroom as the only place where this happens. Wrong. If we want–not need–but want to learn outside of the classroom, we are very able to do so. Lifelong learning–though natural–should include learning specific topics and studies that we choose to study without any strings and consequences attached.
Basically, keep learning things you just want to learn. Don’t restrict yourself to professional development and training for your job; courses to earn a degree and/or certification; health classes and articles for your declining health and medical needs; et cetera (though you should definitely do those, too!) Study something random that just piques your interest. Writing, mythology, soccer, art, crafting, potato guns, cowboys…whatever.
Lifelong Learning is “Self-Motivated”
This one is very similar to be voluntary, but they do have their differences (because I get technical like that). While learning is a choice, it is also a choice that you will maintain on your own.
Now, there are many of us who learn something because someone else is doing it. Maybe your friends are all taking Zumba. Though you’re not about that moving life, you do it because your friends want to spend that time with you doing something “fun”. Y’know…because sweating and reminding yourself how out-of-shape you are is “fun”…? Or, maybe your husband really loves fishing, and you want to work on spending more private time together. Next thing you know, you’re sitting on a rock at 5am staring at the water, waiting for something to tug the stick (who declared that fun?). Guys, you do it, too. Your wife likes to craft because Pinterest blogs make it look so easy! You start questioning your decisions in life when you find yourself building a dresser and supergluing sequins to it with her (because she’s your queen, right?)
If that person wasn’t pressuring/guilting you into doing that, it’s not gonna happen! That’s externally motivated. Though you may end up liking it enough to continue, you still want to find something that is intrinsically motivated–meaning, you feel good about it, whether it’s acknowledged by others. That thing that you do and is like, “Yeah, I did that!” or “You don’t even know. I’m like, an expert on that!”. Again, find something random that piques your interest and that you will do alone and with others because you just like it.
Now that we know what it is, let’s consider some assumptions that may arise about it.
I’ve got a few degrees–obviously, I’m a learner.
Not necessarily! Going to school does not automatically mean that what you study will be practiced and retained–both of which are key to true learning. Many people attend school for credentials, but lifelong learning is the pursuit of knowledge and skills to better ourselves as humans. School is a big way to expand our mind. There are so many classes available for people to study various topics that help us to think about things that are indirectly related to our lives personally and professionally; but, they allow us to meet and collaborate with others with similar interests. But, because of formal schooling costs and structures, most people go to school for a specific reason; and it’s typically not to just be a “better person”, but a valuable professional.
Source of Wisdom — CrashCourse YouTube Channel
Well, if school doesn’t make me a lifelong learner, what does?
Oskar Nowik, a professional blogger and author on positive change in our daily lives, suggests 12 Signs Your Are a Lifelong Learner, like:
- Daily Reading
- Course Attendance
- Seeking Growth Opportunities
- Physical Self-Care
- Diverse Passions
- Making Progress
- Setting Challenging Goals
- Embracing Change
- Learning at Any Age
- Encourages Positive Behavior
- Leave Comfort Zone
- Never Stops Learning
This is the basic list. While some are self-explanatory, others are not. I suggest you check out his article to find out how each indicates a lifelong learner.
So, you’re saying if I’m not doing these, I’m not a lifelong learner?
Naw, not really. Of course, there’s no definitive list that can completely encompass such a broad and subjective concept like lifelong learning. Nowik’s previous list is a pretty solid one, but Nurse Beth’s 10 Characteristics of a Lifelong Learner is even more clear. If you are (a):
- Critical Thinker
Considering this, you’re probably a lifelong learner. These general traits seem more natural to being a human (which is good news for those who fell short on the other list). What I like about her article, as well, is that she includes some common research topics from early 2015. Check it out for more details about these characteristics and topics.
Uh-huh…that’s great and all, but I think I have better things to do–that are less stressful and more fun.
I swear, if you prefer to watch obnoxious and pointless videos and/or scroll through social media to stalk the long lives of our “friends” and “communities” instead of wanting to expand your mind with topics that push you to reflect on life and how you live it, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. It is that behavior (as a primary activity, mind you) that left me with no choice but to resign from the human race and apply to be a pencil.
There are so many reasons why you should be a lifelong learner. Matt Mayberry looks at the benefits of Striv[ing] to Be a Lifelong Learner, including:
- Success in being well-rounded
- Staying current, competitive and up-to-date in your professional life
- Separating yourself from the crowd
- Warding off mediocrity
- Getting ahead in other areas of life
- Furthering and advancing your education
- Culturing yourself on worldly issues
- Achieving more of what you want to accomplish
For the fellas out there, Brett and Kate McKay, from the Art of Manliness, say “…history’s greatest men were autodidacts–those who devote themselves to self-education, either in addition to or as a substitute to formal schooling”.
*Pause* I’m pretty sure “autodidact” is my new sexy word. *Play*
They suggest this is part of “manliness” because:
- Earn more
- Be more interesting and charismatic
- A better leader
- Be independent and handy
- It “keeps your brain healthy”
- Feel more satisfied with life
- Become more human
Even as a woman, I want to be this manly, and prefer manly men who are learners to befriend. For example, my husband is a self-taught engineer! What I love even more about the article is that they strip your time, money, information, and location excuses as what they are: excuses. Yeah?
Okay, Okay, okay…how do I become a “lifelong learner”?
I’m so glad you asked!
The McKays have some suggestions for that, too (they are on it!):
- Foster a growth mindset
- Change your idea of learning
- Establish goals
- Find your sources
- Ask questions
- Find a group
- Practice, practice, practice
- Teach what you’re learning
- Test yourself
Blue Pencil Institute also gives 15 Tips for Successful Lifelong Learning:
- Make a conscious decision to be a lifelong learner
- Dare to dream big
- Engage in work that encourages, requires, and/or supports your lifelong learning
- Schedule a time for learning
- Use scraps of time or trapped time for learning
- Determine your learning style and preference
- Surround yourself with lifelong learners
- Create a lifelong learning plan
- Subscribe to and read professional journals and books
- Visit the library regularly
- Become a better browser
- Attend lectures
- Teach with and to others
- Try new things often
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
You may be noticing some similarities. Again, check out the articles–or comment below–if anything is unclear.
Slow your roll, Kiddo! It’s a lot, I know. But, if you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you know I try to cut every steak I serve into bite-size pieces. Check out the follow up post!
What have you learned about being a lifelong learner? Do you feel like it’s worth it, or it’s better to escape?
Let me know below and on social media.