So you want to be a lifelong learner – congratulations! Lifelong learning is a wonderful thing to aspire to, and the benefits extend far beyond your job and career into your personal and social life. In fact, keeping your brain engaged and active through lifelong learning has also been found to stave off ailments like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
However, it’s one thing to say you want to be a lifelong learner, and quite another to actually live the life of a lifelong learner. Life with all its routines and responsibilities can easily get in the way, and unless you make a conscious effort, there is every chance your lifelong learning will be limited. However, if you take up some or all of the practical steps below, lifelong learning could be a very real part of your life.
1. Develop a growth mindset
Lifelong learning starts with having the right attitude and mindset. Believe that you can learn whatever you put your mind to. Be enthusiastic about obtaining new knowledge, experiences and skills. You’re never too old to learn something new, so it’s time to put away that saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.
The difference between people with a fixed mindset and people with a growth mindset is this: fixed mindset people believe that their talents and abilities are innate and fixed, while growth mindset people believe that they can improve themselves through learning and practice. Be the latter!
2. Change your idea of what it means to learn
Learning doesn’t only happen in a classroom setting or even with an instructor in front of you. Learning can take place anywhere – from a television program or over the Internet as you’re reading an article or watching a YouTube video.
That’s not all. Think about how much information and knowledge you’ve picked up from friends and family members over the years. Think about the skills that you might have learned from your parents cooking in the kitchen, working in the garden or just doing jobs around the house. All of that is part of lifelong learning, so don’t think that you’re not learning just because you’re not signed up to a course and sitting in a classroom.
3. Set learning goals for yourself
The best way to make sure you do something is to set a goal that you can work towards and achieve. What do you want to learn? When do you want to learn it by? These are questions that you need to ask yourself to set realistic goals for learning. Don’t make your goals too long-term; review them regularly. This ensures that they remain relevant, and makes it easier for you to manage and monitor your progress.
4. Always ask questions
Learning opportunities are around us every day, and one way to access the information we need is to ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid of looking silly in front of other people – seize the chance to learn different things from the people and situations that you come across. Complement your learning by asking friends, experts or mentors lots of questions. Whenever you come across something that you’re unsure of, ask for help.
5. Practice really does make perfect
In the same way that you can’t learn a new language without speaking it with others, you won’t get very far in learning new skills if you don’t practice them. This is easier said than done, of course, particularly with subjects that are less hands-on. But there are still ways in which you can apply what you’ve learned in a practical context. For example, with art, you could always visit an art museum to try and apply your knowledge. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to take the initiative, so be creative about your learning and you just might surprise yourself.
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