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Lifelong learning

A lot of people think about learning as achieving formal education; whether that be at school, college, university etc. We are often given the message, from an early age, that we should ‘get a good education’. Now, generally speaking, it holds true that a formal education, with the resulting qualifications, are important; education may increase our chances to find better, more satisfying, more stimulating jobs. It may also lead us to earn more and, maybe, become more successful in our chosen career.


However, this is only one type of learning. There are numerous opportunities to improve our knowledge and develop the skills we need throughout our lives. It should also be noted that there are huge benefits to learning for the simple pleasure of learning. More about this later.


Behaviours, knowledge and skills can be obtained and developed anywhere; learning is inescapable and often happens subconsciously. However, continuous learning is about developing and maintaining an attitude of learning for both personal and professional development. Those who become enthused by lifelong learning are typically driven to develop and learn because they want and/or need to: learning become a deliberate and voluntary act.


There does not need to be a specific reason for learning since learning for the sake of learning can in itself be a rewarding experience.


You may want to increase your knowledge and/or skills of a hobby that you enjoy

Maybe you want to develop entirely new skills that will enhance your life – learning a language, a creative skills (drawing, the piano, etc) course or car mechanic course

Perhaps you’re planning a holiday and wish to learn more about your destination

Learning can help to boost confidence and self-esteem

Learning can help to challenges pre-existing ideas and beliefs

Controversial I know, but learning can be fun!


Dedicating time and energy to learning can bring its own indirect rewards. You may get increased personal satisfaction from your life and job as you understand more about who you are, what you do and why you do it (what motivates you).


As a self-confessed fan of mnemonics, I came across the below, from Colin Rose, as he describes the stages to becoming an effective learner.


Motivation

Acquire

Search

Trigger

Examine

Reflect


Motivation

All learning typically requires motivation; usually self-motivation. It is important to be positive about both your ability to learn and the act of learning itself. If you find yourself struggling with the relevance of what you are learning about then it is likely that you will not be as successful as you would like to be. It is also possible that you need to challenge the topic of learning that has been identified.


Acquire

Successful learning relies on you attaining information through a variety of methods; reading, listening, observing, practising, experimenting and experience. The problem that many find themselves in that there are myriad sources of Information available; the skill comes from being selective in the information you acquire, making sure it is relevant and meaningful and that it can developed into the required behaviours, knowledge and skills.


Search

We prosper when learning when we are able to determine a personal meaning. We can find it hard to remember facts without understanding them or being able to put them into a context that can be applied to our own lives. Learning is about applying what you acquire and asking yourself questions like: ‘How does this idea help in my life?’ or ‘What has this experience taught me about myself?


Trigger

Most people are not that great at retaining information. It is generally not possible for us to remember all that we read, hear and experience. Therefore, it is important to develop triggers that will aid recollection. For example, taking notes, practicing the learning you have acquired, discussing with others and experimenting with the new ideas and competencies that you have considered.


Examine

It is important to regularly examine the knowledge gained, as this will help reinforce what you have learned. Aligned to this, it is important to always try to keep an open-mind, question your understanding and to be open to new information. Discussing with others and empathising with others point of view can also be an incredibly powerful way of examining your own perception and understanding of a learning topic.


Reflect

Lastly, it is crucial that you reflect on what you have learnt. Consider the how and why of what you have learned, recognise your mistakes and successes and try to always remain positive.


So, if I were to leave you with one thing to consider, its this.


Never. Stop. Learning.


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