Growing up my dad would tell me that it is always wise to invest in yourself. That advice typically came when I expressed an interest in learning something new but wasn’t sure if the investment would pay off (time or financially). I have since come to realize that education and experience is something no one can take from you, and it is what makes you unique.
So why do many of us think that once we have an established career, we can relax, and we don’t need to continue to stretch ourselves? It is easy to rest on our previous experience and our knowledge but there is a great danger in doing so. The world is constantly changing and if we are not learning and growing, we can quickly get behind and there are so many more benefits to lifelong learning.
What if we told you that continuing to learn new things throughout your life can make you live longer? Then what if I made that statement even stronger, telling you that those extra years of life could be enjoyed with a sharp, smart and capable mind? Additionally, you'll be less likely to have cognitive decline and develop neurological diseases and illnesses like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other forms of dementia.
Those benefits of lifelong learning have been proven and have been reported by the Harvard Medical School. There are good reasons to continue to exercise your brain throughout your lifetime.
Lifelong learners have certain habits. If you talk to people dedicated to constantly learning new things, you'll find patterns. Here are seven powerful habits I've observed.
1 – They Don't Make Excuses
I don't have time to learn anything new. I was never a good student in school, so I will not be able to learn anything new as an adult. I would try new things if they weren't so difficult.
Those statements are simply excuses. Those are common reasons for not consciously trying to learn new things and enjoy new experiences. It allows you to stay in your comfort zone, however results occur when you step outside your comfort zone.
If you catch yourself making excuses instead of trying to grow, think about the benefits of this new knowledge and focus on the outcomes.
2 – They Read Something Every Day
How much do you read? Successful people will tell you that reading isn't an option for learning. It's a requirement. And…it really doesn't matter what you read.
You might not have read an entire book since high school. Your job doesn't require you to read much of anything. Your personal life and responsibilities don't involve reading a single word. You're just not the "reading type."
That's okay. You can still benefit from the brain-boosting power of reading. Just think about your interests and hobbies.
Maybe you like gardening. If so, what things would you like to know more about? Perhaps you want to grow your own sweet potatoes. You can continue to learn by researching the best methods. I decided to grow sweet potatoes in containers and now every year my neighbors can’t wait for their Thanksgiving supply!
Get your hands on the top books or magazines regarding something you enjoy. Check out blogs. Even if you don't consider yourself a reader, reading is easy when you're absorbing knowledge that you're interested in.
3 – They Have Several Different Interests
Discovering different interests can help you find your passion. Lifelong learners have different fields of interest and are always trying something new, and it might not be related to things they've learned in the past.
If you're constantly learning about one subject, you can become bored (or boring). Everything becomes routine and not very enjoyable. That could lead to you giving up on learning, and that's never a good thing.
4 – Lifelong Learners Actively Seek Growth Opportunities
Lifelong learners often wonder what they can learn today. Their free time is spent searching for new ways to expand their minds and improve their lives.
They take control of the learning experience. They don't hope fate will deliver them a new and wondrous learning opportunity. They go out and find that opportunity.
5 – Learning Means Embracing Failure and Expecting It
We all make mistakes from time to time. Sometimes when we fail, it's unexpected and can be disheartening.
One way to quickly move on from past failures or mistakes is to realize we are all human and therefore not perfect. That's okay. A failure is not who you are. It's just an experience. A failure is nothing more than a little slice of time where something didn't go as planned.
Move on. Learn from your mistake. Don't fear failure. You can become paralyzed if you are afraid of failing and making mistakes. You take no action. You can't grow and learn without being an active participant.
6 – Concrete, Specific Goals Are a Part of Lifetime Learning
Each year, a common New Year's resolution is to lose weight and get in shape. One way to guarantee that's probably not going to happen is to give yourself a vague goal.
You tell yourself, "This is it. This is the year I finally lose weight and become healthier. I'm dedicated to learning anything I need to know in order to finally reach and maintain a healthy body weight." With that vague goal, it's almost inevitable that you will not succeed.
You may or may not need to lose weight, but you understand the example. You can't hit a target that isn't clear.
If a person with a weight loss goal is specific and timely, the odds go way up that they will succeed. If I said, "I'm going to lose 8 to 10 pounds in the next three months. I'll accomplish this by combining regular exercise and a better diet. I'm making more of my meals, eating out less, and eating less processed foods. My exercise routine will include strength training three days a week and walking on three alternate days." That is more specific and the possibility of success is increased.
7 – They Understand It's Never Too Late to Get Started
Imagine that you're in your 50’s and decide to pursue a higher education degree. You kick it around your mind for a year or two. You start to dabble in educating yourself, and then you stop.
What were you thinking? You're too old to start an education that could take years for you to develop and complete. You might not live long enough to benefit from it.
When I finished my doctorate late in my career, someone commented, “It’s a shame you didn’t do that earlier when it would have benefited you more professionally.” However, the courses and dissertation kept me engaged, introduced me to new concepts and I’ve had the opportunity to use what I learned from my dissertation in a variety of ways that I never imagined.
It's never too late to get started. Some of the most successful people in the world got started later in life. They kept learning and taking action, and that's what you need to do.
How can you benefit from continuing to learn? Want to advance your career? Increase your income? Become a better parent? Have you ever wanted to learn a new language?
Many of my friends are taking painting classes, cooking classes, learning musical instruments, or learning skills that will help them with their career. These are all examples of learning something new to improve your life in some way.
Lifetime learning means consciously and actively pursuing new skills and obtaining more knowledge. Embrace the healthy learning habits we just covered, and you can enjoy a life full of self-improvement.