“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

 Henry Ford

I am a lifelong learner. Everyone can and should be one. Learning doesn’t require you to go to an elite college and pay $80,000 a year. You can find opportunities to learn are all around us. Education, as a priority, has always been drummed into me since I was young. Like many, my immigrant parents had very little formal education, but they wanted a different future for their children. Growing up in a modest household, we–my parents, brother, and I– were all voracious readers.

My younger brother always competed at the dinner with complex arguments. He usually won. Sometimes it was because he was louder than the rest of us. We usually gave up too quickly. However, he had an insatiable thirst for knowledge that rivaled mine, and we both enjoyed learning.

What Is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong or continuous learning can be formal, informal, or casual. Expanding your knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are all a part of education. Picking up new information can be for personal development, career goals, or a hobby that may generate income later on. There are so many ways to educate yourself. Nowadays, resources are plentiful with virtual learning. Invest in yourself in a way no one else can do for you.

My children and my college students always hear me say the same mantra: “Never stop learning.” However, teens have a habit of “knowing-it-all” without having had the experience to go with that attitude. With all that is available to them, they should be curious, adapt to new information, and know what they don’t know. They should explore more and have fun doing so.

Lifelong learning is an essential tool as we adapt to the faster pace of technological change in our society. That was occurring in recent years but accelerated due to the pandemic. There has been greater acceptance of remote working, telemedicine, and distance learning by the constituents who used them over the past nine weeks. This trend is likely to continue in the future. Some of the delivery platforms, notably distance learning, was pushed out as campuses shut down. With greater demand, increased financial resources have supported online platforms better. 

The Pandemic Accelerated Changes In Our Society

“Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella recently said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”  Dramatic technological speed will reshape work, careers, and personal lives in our knowledge-based economy. The pandemic has accelerated those changes that have been in play for years. According to a Pew Research survey, 87% of American workers believe they need to undergo training for skills and development while working. A full 70% of workers believe the responsibility for that preparation and success belongs to them.

To be a lifelong learner, here are some of the needed characteristics:

  • Learning should be voluntary and not forced. Do it for yourself.
  • Be proactive and self-motivated to do something out of a desire for personal fulfillment.
  • Understand your interests. Is it learning to earn or earning to learn? It can be both.
  • Be resourceful in finding the information you want. Sometimes it’s like a treasure hunt and is not costly to seek.
  • Have a “can-do” attitude when picking up new skills. Battle “automatic negative thoughts.” You can do it.
  • Read more for enjoyment and knowledge.

6 Benefits of Lifelong Learning

 

1. Improve Your Skills

Throughout your life, you should strive to strengthen your hard and soft skills.  Hard skills are teachable and quantifiable abilities gained through formal education or on-the-job training. For example, you can apply knowledge from courses like accounting, computer software, finance, and marketing in any workplace setting.

Having Soft Skills Are Essential

On the other hand, soft skills are personality attributes that enable someone to interact effectively. Employers are increasingly seeking these productive traits–adaptability, collaboration, critical thinking, interpersonal communications, problem-solving–as marks of success. As a professor, I integrate these employable skills into the classroom and through internships. My assignments require critical thinking about how the Federal Reserve will act under different economic indicators.

These valuable skills enhance personal and professional development. You can combine hard skills with soft skills, like learning a new language, coding, or artificial intelligence (AI). They often overlap between your personal life and career. Billionaire Mark Cuban has studied machine learning and AI not only to better himself but because learning can be fun when you find your passion. Acquiring knowledge through reading opens up many doors toward personal fulfillment. Many of the leaders we most admire are exhaustive readers.

2. Be Self-Confident

Becoming more knowledgeable, boosts our confidence in our personal and professional lives. By being more confident, I often felt less stress on the job. That doesn’t mean I know how to do everything I need to do, quite the contrary. It means that I know what I don’t know and will learn independently or from others. Being humble is recognizing that I can’t possibly know everything. However, I will try my best. I wasn’t always that way. Many a time, my frustration would paralyze me with negative thoughts and inaction. Over time I learned to power through it. It is a satisfying feeling when you get that “aha moment,” and all is good in the world.

3. Adaptability Or Fail

Adaptability is among the major lessons we have learned due to the pandemic disruption in our lives. Many trends were already happening through a digital transformation, but the coronavirus was a massive catalyst for change. Adaptability becomes more amenable as you expose yourself to more ideas, skills, and knowledge. Personal resistance to change, such as anticipated automation or AI, is a recipe for failure. Instead, learn how to adapt to emerging trends. It will provide you with a positive outlook on the job and in your life.

You should be part of the solution at work, not the problem. Don’t be left behind. According to a McKinsey report on the future of work released in July 2019, automation will increase for jobs held by nearly 15 million workers ages 18-34. Automation may displace another 11.5 million workers over 50 unless workers undergo retraining. The need for increased adaptability and higher education may stave off some of these career challenges. Continuous learning and skill development is essential to surviving economic and technological disruption.

4. Be A Mentor To Others

I have had great experiences having a mentor help me in my career and mentor to others. Sharing what I know with others as a mentor or a teacher has been very fulfilling and rewarding. I served as a mentor in a professional setting throughout my career. In that capacity, I enjoyed overseeing the professional development of many junior associates who worked with me or were part of my group.

Coaching my junior associates to meet or make phone calls to busy executives and analyze publicly available information helped my junior associates to make decisions. Many of my former associates are successful in their own rights. That feels good! On the other hand, I now work as a mentor for my business students at the community college, helping them with their courses and consider specific majors. As such, I encounter these students at an earlier part of their lives before solidifying their career path. Their appreciation is visible. It is gratifying to know I had a small amount in their future success.

As parents, we can be role models to our children by embracing continuous learning. My children often see my husband and me reading or watching TED events and may join us if only for a moment. Nurturing curiosity at a young age is a personal value. Related Post: 6 Benefits of Being A Mentor

5. Keep Your Brain Healthy

Learning activities offset cognitive decline by improving memory. Researchers have found that a history of lifelong mental activity may support better performance. Although it won’t change the biology of Alzheimer’s, it may delay symptoms. Continuous learning keeps brain cells working at optimum levels, limiting mental decline as we age. Brain exercises can boost benefits when engaged in doing a large jigsaw puzzle, expanding your vocabulary, playing music, and learning a new skill.

There are many ways to keep your brain healthy such as eating brain food, reading a good book, or hire Elon Musk’s brain coach, Jum Kwik. He is a huge advocate of learning and has written “Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life.” This book is on my night table.

6. Being Happy, Not Bored or Boring

Growing up, my brother and I would get our mom’s ire if we complained about being bored. Our mom would rather we would curse (sort of) than say we had nothing to do. She was adamant that finding something to do was our responsibility. We learned that at an early age. As a result, we played board games, read, and did a lot of sports.  We didn’t yet have the internet, but video games were too expensive for our household. Continually learning new things fills the gap where boredom may lie.

To this day, I hear my mom’s words whenever my kids complain of being bored. I can’t figure out why when they have smartphones, video games, and many stuff we didn’t have growing up. While I don’t feel bored, I have worried about remaining relevant in my field, life and not being boring to others.

Boring? I Hope Not!

Here’s a secret for you, I  always feared being dull from when I was very young. Is that even a rational reason to have angst? That thought originated from a game show host who asked, “Which would hurt you the most: being called ugly, dumb, or boring?” (It was The Dating Game in the days before political correctness). I picked boring because I always thought you could do something about being boring but less about the other two traits. As a result of that revelation, boring or not, I have been happy to be a lifelong learner.

Being educated can bridge many gaps. Earnings tend to be higher, whether by getting a college degree or furthering your learning on your own. A happy disposition results whether  you do it earn more or simply for the joy of learning and accomplishing more in your life

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits to being a lifelong learner. Be purposeful about what you want to learn, whether it is for personal or professional development. Either way, it will be good for your growth, can reduce stress, and boost your health. Find what you are interested in and go for it. We all live busy lives. Find the time to learn throughout life. It is a way to invest in yourself. That can be rewarding.

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