You may have heard the term lifelong learning bandied around at one time or another, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means and how it’s relevant to you?
What exactly is lifelong learning? Lifelong learning is usually voluntary and self-motivated and can include both formal and informal learning. Think of it as ongoing personal development that you do to achieve greater fulfillment and satisfaction, both personally and professionally. It’s a process of continually adding to your knowledge and experience, which can help you become more self-aware, resilient and reflective.
Have you ever heard the saying, the only sure thing in life is change? Society is driven by constant development and change. If you stop learning, you’ll eventually fall behind. Engaging in lifelong learning helps us to keep up with changing trends, it widens our perspective, it keeps us relevant and even increases our competence, by continually stimulating our brain. What’s more, according to research, lifelong learning encourages us to improve our own quality of life and sense of self-worth by paying attention to the ideas and goals that inspire us. Now that sounds pretty important!
From a career development point of view, lifelong learning can broaden your skills set and increase your adaptability in the workplace. What’s more, the learning activities you engage in don’t necessarily need to be directly related to your job. Employers are looking for well-balanced people with transferable skills who are keen to learn and develop.
You may be reading this thinking you’re not engaging in any self-development outside of your studies, but you may be short selling yourself. If you work casually or part-time, you’re learning every time you clock on, as no two shifts are the same. Trying out that new recipe you came across, listening to a podcast or even taking up Pilates are all examples of lifelong learning activities.
If making more effort to learn something new is important to you, here are some steps to get you started:
- Reflect on what interests and motivates you. Once you’ve done this, make a list of what you would like to be able to do or learn more about. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, you might sign up for an evening course. If you feel the most motivated when you’re helping others, consider engaging in activities such as mentoring or volunteering.
- Dedicate time to your personal development. Just like you’ve carved out time in your week to attend your classes, schedule time into your calendar for these other pursuits. If you don’t make the time and space for it, it’s unlikely to happen. For example, if you’ve decided you want to learn Pilates, book your lesson in advance so it’s locked into your diary.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. You can’t do it all, so decide where you would like to deepen your existing knowledge and where you want to learn something new, and set yourself some clear goals.
- Create accountability for achieving your goals. This could be enlisting a friend to attend Pilates classes with you. Or you might set yourself a goal that you’ll put your new language skills to use on an overseas holiday in twelve months’ time. If you’re able to somehow hold yourself accountable, you’re more likely to fully commit.
In the words of American philosopher John Dewey:
Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
So, get out there and keep exploring.