Non scholae sed vitae discimus – We don’t learn for school, but for life
While for some people, lifelong learning is a buzzword from yet another New York Times bestseller, for others, it is a lifestyle. Learning throughout life means continuously seeking knowledge and expanding your horizons, regardless of your age or life circumstances. This mindset encourages you to never stop growing and discovering new things, whether that means learning to code or cook brownies.
Modern technology has made lifelong learning more accessible than ever before. Online courses, webinars, and podcasts allow you to learn from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. Let’s discover the joys of lifelong learning together! In this article, our expert team will explore the benefits of lifelong learning, why it’s never too late to start, and how you can unlock the power of lifelong learning to enhance your personal, academic, and professional life.
🧑🏫 What Is Lifelong Learning?
Lifelong learning refers to the continuous process of acquiring new knowledge, skills, and experiences. It involves a commitment to personal, academic, and professional growth and a willingness to explore new ideas.
Lifelong learning can take many forms, including formal and informal learning opportunities. Formal education involves attending college or university, taking courses or workshops, or pursuing a degree or certification in a particular field. Informal learning opportunities involve reading books, playing sports, or participating in online courses or webinars.
Let’s consider two different examples of lifelong learning:
- A professional doctor who attends conferences, workshops, and training to stay up-to-date with the latest medical trends and best practices. By doing so, they enhance their skills and knowledge, stay competitive in their field, and position themselves for career advancement.
- A high school graduate during a gap year before college who takes up a new hobby, such as learning a new language, taking graphic design classes, or joining a book club. By engaging in these activities, they are expanding their knowledge and skills to figure out what they want to do in college.
🤩 Benefits of Lifelong Learning
There are numerous benefits of lifelong learning that are well-documented and researched. This section will cover the advantages that lifelong learning has for you as an individual and for society as a whole.
- Improved academic and career opportunities. Lifelong learning allows people to acquire new knowledge and skills that can help them advance in college and their workplace.
- Personal growth. Lifelong learning helps people better understand themselves and their place in the world. It inspires personal growth, self-awareness, and self-improvement.
- Better health. Individuals can improve their cognitive function, reduce stress, and enhance their overall quality of life by engaging in learning activities. Recent research in neurology has even proven that learning activities can help delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
- A boost of creativity. Lifelong learning encourages people to explore new ideas and perspectives, which can inspire creativity and innovation. This can be beneficial in both their personal and professional lives.
- Personal fulfillment. Lifelong learning can provide a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction as people pursue their interests and passions. It can also help individuals with low self-esteem feel more confident and empowered.
- Social cohesion. Lifelong learning can promote a sense of solidarity among people by bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds and fostering greater understanding and tolerance among different groups.
- Innovation. Lifelong learning is a stimulator for innovation and creativity, leading to the development of new technologies, products, and services that benefit society as a whole.
- Environmental sustainability. Lifelong learning can promote environmental sustainability by raising awareness of environmental issues and encouraging individuals to take action to protect the environment.
- Economic growth. Lifelong learning can contribute to developing a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, which can drive economic growth and development.
- Equality. Lifelong learning can ensure that all members of society have access to education and training opportunities, regardless of their background or circumstances.
📚 Habits of a Lifelong Learner
The well-known principle “fake it till you make it” can also be helpful in terms of lifelong learning. If you don’t know where to start, check out this list of lifelong learner habits. You might want to incorporate them into your daily routine, and soon you’ll develop your own effective lifelong learning strategies.
|🧠 Develop a growth mindset
|People with a growth mindset recognize that they can learn and improve continuously throughout their lives. Conversely, those with fixed mindsets avoid challenges and are easily frustrated by changes.
|🎯 Set effective learning goals
|Not all the goals within lifelong learning should be ambitious, but they should be SMART. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
|⌚ Work on your time management
|Lifelong learners manage their time effectively, prioritizing learning activities and making time for self-improvement. At the same time, they don’t forget about the importance of taking regular breaks.
|🏆 Develop self-motivation
|A lifelong learner is self-motivated and takes responsibility for their learning. The main difference with traditional learning is that when you pursue lifelong learning, you don’t have strong external incentives to understand the material, such as earning a good grade. As a lifelong learner, you have to find the motivation inside yourself.
|📈 Reflect on your progress
|Take time to reflect on what you have learned, how you have learned it, and how you can apply your new knowledge. Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements and milestones along the way.
|✍️ Make learning a habit
|Incorporate learning into your daily routine and make it a priority. Practice active learning and engage in activities that involve applying what you have learned, for example, projects, experiments, or teaching others.
Some bonus tips that can help you make lifelong learning a part of your daily routine:
- Install learning apps so that you can learn anywhere and at any time. Check out Duolingo for language learning or Brilliant to learn math or computer science.
- Surround yourself with other lifelong learners. Find someone you can ask for feedback on your learning progress and use their suggestions to improve.
- Try new things. You should try new things every day to help yourself step out of your comfort zone. Simple things like having an exotic meal for lunch can help you take on new challenges and grow.
- Make reading a habit. Lifelong learners read books, articles, and blogs on various topics to expand their knowledge and understanding. If you’re not a fan of reading, you can try podcasts or educational videos like TED talks.
🤹 Lifelong Learning in Action: 6 Types
There is no one correct way to be a lifelong learner. There are different types of lifelong learning, each serving its own purpose. Let’s discuss the six main types.
Formal lifelong learning refers to organized learning programs that people take on throughout their lives to acquire new knowledge, skills, and competencies. Universities and colleges typically offer this type of learning. Formal lifelong learning is pursued by individuals who seek to enhance their career prospects or stay up-to-date with industry trends and developments.
Some examples of formal learning are:
- Degree programs. These formal educational programs lead to a degree, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
- Continuing education courses. These courses are offered by universities and colleges and allow individuals to update their knowledge and skills in a particular field. For example, nurses may take continuing education courses to stay up-to-date with the latest medical procedures and technologies.
- Certificate programs. Short-term programs provide specialized knowledge and skills in a particular area. For example, a graphic designer may enroll in a certificate program to learn new design software.
Informal learning occurs outside of formal educational institutions and is often self-directed. It can take many forms, such as reading books, attending conferences, participating in online forums, and engaging in hobbies or personal interests. This type of learning is driven by personal interest and curiosity rather than external requirements or academic credentials.
These are examples of informal lifelong learning:
- Reading books or watching educational videos. People often read books and watch videos on various topics every day, unaware that this is a part of lifelong learning. If you choose content wisely, it can expand your knowledge and understanding in a specific field.
- Attending conferences. Conferences provide opportunities to learn from experts in a particular field and network with other professionals. For example, a business student may attend a conference on leadership or marketing given by a famous speaker.
- Engaging in hobbies. Hobbies such as cooking, woodworking, or playing a musical instrument can provide opportunities for informal learning.
Professional lifelong learning is the ongoing process of acquiring new knowledge, skills, and competencies related to one’s profession or career. It is essential for people to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in their field to remain competitive and relevant. Professional lifelong learning also occurs when a person decides to switch careers and try something new.
Consider the examples of professional lifelong learning:
- Attending a conference or workshop related to your profession to learn about the latest developments in the field.
- Participating in an online course or certification program to gain new skills and knowledge relevant to your career.
- Networking with other professionals in the industry to exchange experiences and ideas and learn from each other.
Self-directed lifelong learning involves taking responsibility for your own learning and development. It means actively seeking out new knowledge and skills, setting goals, and taking control over the pace and path of your progress. Self-directed learners are motivated by a desire to become the best version of themselves rather than external rewards or pressures.
Examples of self-directed lifelong learning are:
- Learning a new language. A self-directed learner might set a goal to learn a new language and then choose resources such as books, online courses, and language programs to help them achieve that goal.
- Developing a new hobby. A self-directed learner might decide to take up a new hobby, such as painting or woodworking. They would research different techniques and materials and then practice regularly.
- Continuing education. A self-directed learner might pursue continuing education opportunities such as online courses or workshops to stay up-to-date in their field or develop new skills to help them advance in their career.
Indirect lifelong learning refers to acquiring knowledge and skills through experiences and activities not specifically designed for educational purposes. It involves learning through observation, reflection, and participation in everyday life.
Here are some examples of indirect lifelong learning:
- Traveling. People travel to new places and learn about different cultures, languages, and customs. This type of learning is indirect because it is not structured or planned but rather occurs as a result of experiencing new environments and interacting with people from different backgrounds.
- Listening to podcasts. People can learn about different topics such as history, science, philosophy, and literature by listening to podcasts, even if they do it while jogging or cooking breakfast. Podcasts can also improve critical thinking skills and empathy by exposing listeners to different perspectives and ideas.
- Volunteering. When people volunteer their time and skills to help others, they often learn new things about themselves and the world around them. Participating in community service projects may teach them about social issues, provide opportunities for teamwork, and strengthen their leadership skills.
Personal lifelong learners seek out opportunities for growth and development outside their college or workplace. Personal lifelong learning often involves exploring specific topics, engaging in unusual hobbies, or practicing self-improvement.
Examples of personal lifelong learning are:
- Expanding your personal network. Personal lifelong learners understand the value of building relationships with others who share their interests or can offer different perspectives.
- Self-reflection. Personal lifelong learners recognize the importance of self-reflection in the learning process. They take time to reflect on their experiences and identify areas where they can improve or learn more. Often reflection takes the form of meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling.
- Becoming a standup comedian. Standup comedy or any other specific hobby that takes time and effort is another example of lifelong personal learning. Such an unusual hobby helps connect with any audience and boosts self-esteem.
🤯 The Mindset of a Lifelong Learner
Here’s a small guide if you’re wondering how to develop a lifelong learner mindset.
Step #1 Recognize what traits of a lifelong learner you already have. Since lifelong learning is about what’s inside you, focusing on your strengths is essential. Think about traits like curiosity, open-mindedness, or self-reflection that you already have and can use during your learning journey.
Step #2 Become comfortable with stepping out of your comfort zone. Fear and discomfort often hold us back. To develop a lifelong learning mindset, embrace challenges, and be open to failure. Consider mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Step #3 Make use of both formal and informal learning opportunities. Don’t expect college to be the only source for personal development. Always try to understand more than you’re given in lectures and supplement your knowledge with related books, YouTube videos, or hands-on experience.
Step #4 Expand your community. Good company always helps. Connect with other lifelong learners to expand your mindset and stay motivated. Join a book club or a class, attend seminars and workshops, or engage in online discussions to connect with like-minded people.
Step #5 Enroll in a lifelong learning institute. Lifelong learning colleges and universities can provide the necessary educational frameworks. Programs like Professional and Lifelong Learning at Harvard use peer-led and instructor-led meetings to offer continuing education to their students. They also feature outside assignments to ensure all learners can expand beyond a surface-level understanding.
💡 Examples of People Who Never Stopped Learning
For your inspiration, we’ve collected the personal stories of several famous lifelong learners. These achievers prove you can succeed at any age with hard work, determination, and a growth mindset.
👩🍳 Julia Child
Before becoming a celebrated chef and cookbook author, Julia Child was a research assistant for the U.S. government. At the age of 50, she began training at the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She then revolutionized how Americans viewed French cuisine with her popular cookbooks and television shows.
🦸 Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson worked as a struggling actor for over two decades before landing his breakthrough role in the film “Pulp Fiction” at 46. Since then, he has become one of Hollywood’s most recognizable and hardworking actors.
👩🎨 Vera Wang
Vera Wang started her career as a figure skater before transitioning to the fashion world. Despite facing criticism and setbacks early on in her career, Wang persevered, and at the age of 40, she launched her own bridal gown design business. She has become one of the world’s most successful and influential fashion designers.
🧑💼 Colonel Sanders
Colonel Sanders worked as a farmer, a gas station attendant, and even a railroad fireman before founding Kentucky Fried Chicken at 62. He controlled the company’s marketing efforts and built one of the most successful fast-food chains in the world.
In today’s uncertain world, lifelong learning is not an option but rather a necessity. Imagine having the confidence, skills, and knowledge to rise to any challenge that comes your way! That’s what lifelong learning can give you. It’s not just about getting good grades or becoming employee of the month but instead about fostering a mindset of growth, curiosity, and exploration.
Simply put, the more you learn and try, the more experience you get. Continuous learning improves critical thinking and problem-solving skills and can equip you with the necessary tools to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Moreover, lifelong learning boosts confidence and self-esteem, increases social opportunities, and improves health and overall well-being. Embrace lifelong learning, and let it guide you as you explore the world and the opportunities it provides. The possibilities are endless, and the journey is yours to take.