Are You a Lifelong Learner?

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Summer is over, and after spending weeks free from the rigors of class schedules and studying, millions of kids are heading back to school. In all likelihood, it will take a little extra effort to shake out the cobwebs that grew in the absence of classroom learning.

Though some of us have been out of school longer than others, we all understand that learning doesn’t necessarily stop when we leave the classroom. In fact, the further we get from our years of structured learning, the more effort we need to make to nourish and cultivate our minds. The gears of our brains are constantly moving, and are essential to propelling us forward. So why do we so often forget to “feed” our minds?

That question is especially important because our desire to learn and improve is imbedded deep in our psyches. From the moment we come into the world, we are reaching out to learn all we can about our environment and how we fit in. Although we receive our basic education in our early and adolescent years, we continue to learn throughout our lives. It’s one of the things that defines us as human beings.

On top of that, our need for self-improvement—which is what learning fulfills—confers a special quality that we cannot function without:  autonomy. This is a fierce drive to define ourselves as individuals, to determine the course of our lives, and to choose how we live. Another term might be free will. Whatever you call it, it is the propellant that pushes us to learn, to conquer the unknown, and to master not just our fate but the world around us. With lifelong learning, life becomes an adventure, giving us something to look forward to, a purpose and a goal.

So how can you enrich your mind and boost your intrinsic desire to learn more?

Listen. Start listening to podcasts on topics you are interested in. There are so many different types of podcasts, such as leadership, psychology, world news, etc. The possibilities are endless. You can listen to them while on the road to work, gardening, while cutting the grass, at the gym, doing dishes; almost any hands-free activity.

Read. There are books on every topic known to man. Go to your local library, and find something on a topic you know nothing about but have always been interested in. Find out how corn grows. What part develops first?

Watch. Documentaries are wonderful ways to engage multiple senses. You VISUALIZE, LISTEN, and LEARN about things like history, the universe, the way products are made, how certain scientific processes make your everyday life easier, and more.

Do. Activities and hobbies are surefire ways to embed something new in your mind. For example, a beginner painter is constantly trying new techniques, mixing different colors to make a new color, and exploring the activity itself can facilitate openness to new things, opening your horizons and fostering an interest to know more and more.

At a time when we need to be learning and relearning as the world around us changes so quickly, many of us remain resistant to change and the adaptation it requires. Priorities like getting ahead, raising a family, and making money often take precedence over our personal need to continue learning and developing throughout our lives. This is more than a personal challenge. It’s also a challenge for society at large. We simply need more willing adult learners—in business, in politics, in education and every other aspect of life.

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