How does it impact your health?
When you hear the word learning, the first thing that you think of is probably school. While learning definitely takes place in school, it doesn’t have to end once you leave school. By continuing to learn throughout your life, you can benefit greatly. What are these benefits? How do you maximize them?
Humans are uniquely gifted with the capacity for learning, creation and intellectual advancement. It’s the basis of why humans flourish. Cognition is how your brain processes the acquisition of knowledge and its interpretation of this information that is obtained from your thoughts, experiences and senses. This impacts your attention, memory, ability to produce/understand language, solving problems skills and decision-making capabilities. Curiosity is the joy of exploration, which often is a hidden force driving learning, critical thinking and reasoning. If you are curious about a topic, you are more likely to retain what you learn about it for longer periods of time than if you aren’t. Intellectual curiosity has a huge impact on your accomplishments, almost as much as working hard. In addition, curiosity has been linked to increased tolerance to anxiety provoking situations, eliciting positive emotions, increasing humor/playfulness, encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and fostering noncritical attitudes. Tinkering with materials, thoughts and emotions helps to stimulate curiosity. The more you are curious, the more you want to learn. Being curious helps to open your mind to other viewpoints, which can bring you to a whole new level of enlightenment. The key is that you have to be willing to expand your mind and get rid of prior assumptions and convictions. When you learn something new, take the time to think about it, what you believe, why you believe that and how does the new information impact your beliefs. By doing this, you’ll be able to put your life in perspective because it increases your understanding of why and what caused your previous successes and failures, which helps you to better understand yourself. While traditional education is important, it doesn’t always provide the answers you seek. Much of your success will be derived from how motivated you are, how much you continue to learn throughout your life and how you apply the knowledge you gain. Creativity is the ability to apply the skills you learn in one setting to problems in another. So, if you’re always learning, you can use the experience you have to come up with a creative solution to a problem somewhere else in your life.
The concept of lifelong learning began about 85 years ago and is when you continue your educational experience throughout your life. It goes beyond your formal school education and can include non-credit classes at your local college, educational travel, community service and volunteering. Your brain is like any part of your body in that it needs to be exercised. A side benefit from doing this is that most activities require you to have some level of physical exertion. So, the goal is to engage your brain while increasing physical activity and creating/maintaining social relationships. In order to be a lifelong learner, your motivation should arise from your desire for more knowledge and self-improvement, not because you feel like it is a requirement. There are several types of lifelong learning. Formal takes place as part of a scheduled and monitored sequence of learning with other learners, like a college course. Informal is when an individual chooses to learn through reading, watching YouTube, from a peer, or by trial and error. Self-directed is when the student controls the path and pace of their learning, such as an online course that can be taken when their schedule permits or a YouTube workshop that has sequenced episodes, but is self-paced. Professional happens at work to promote professional development, job training or skill acquisition. This can be formal or informal depending on company policy. Personal is done outside of the workplace and is related to a passion or interest. This also can be done formally or informally. Indirect is when you learn something without even planning or knowing about it. Essentially, this is the knowledge you gain everyday as you go about your life.
Learning is vital because it boosts your confidence and can be enjoyable, which increases your level of happiness. Both of these helps to encourage your personal development and improve your quality of life. This is the key to achieving your full potential and can provide numerous health benefits. When you are doing something that you enjoy, it can help to reduce your stress level. Also, when you exercise your mind, it gets tired, just like your body does after you exercise it. So, this means that the quality of your sleep should improve significantly. In addition to confidence, learning increases your overall competence, which allows you to function more effectively and efficiently in life. One of these advantages is your access to health resources greatly expands. This leads to greater knowledge about healthy lifestyles and how to proficiently navigate the healthcare system. All of this leads to you engaging in more healthful behaviors. Also, most people who are will to spend the time enhancing their cognitive health understand the importance of improving their physical health as well. The more time you spend learning, particularly things that are challenging for you, means that your brain become sharper and able to function at a higher level. Also, when you accomplish something that is difficult, you’ll develop a sense of pride in mastering the concept, which gets back to your improved self-confidence because you trust your abilities and competence level. This is the direct result of the knowledge and skills you’ve gained from your experience. Scientists are finding that when we learn new tasks, not only the part of our brain that is used in learning it becomes strengthened, but the areas of the brain surrounding it become strengthened as well. Also, they’re finding that when we continue to learn, it can slow the physical process of Alzheimer’s disease. With the increasing amount of evidence stating that a challenged and stimulated brain is essential to having a vibrant life as you age, it’s no wonder that it’s vital for everyone regardless of their age or education level to become lifelong learners.
Given the technology of today and how fast it is changing, especially in the workplace, it’s a necessity to learn about the advances that are being made in order to stay current and relevant. Thankfully, due to technology, it’s easier now more than ever to be able to continue learning. The predicted advancement in technology has led to estimations that by 2025, over 50% of jobs will be replaced by some form of automation. One way some employers are trying to help their employees is by offering or informing them about chances to further their professional learning through applicable courses, expositions, seminars or travel opportunities. Most of the time, these are optional, but can help you to perform better at work and network to advance in your field. Not only can the skills you learn can be applied to your job, some of them can cross over into your personal life, too.
By pursuing passions and interests outside of work, it helps us to become more well-rounded individuals allowing us to be able to speak on many subject matters. Also, the experience can be pleasurable because it is something that you are actively choosing to engage in rather than being required to study material because you have to. It is a great way to be a positive role model for your kids. When you dedicate time and work hard at improving yourself by continuing to learn, your children see your effort and the positive results that it yields. This demonstrates the importance of hard work and making continuation of learning throughout your life a priority. By continuing to learn, you are able to meet new people, forge friendships/relationships and enjoy an active social life. This is key to your mental wellbeing as you age. It aids you in your ability to adapt to change and can give your life meaning. Together, these lead to an enriching life of self-fulfillment. It is helpful to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are constantly learning because it will encourage you to do the same. It is essential to challenge yourself and always come away with a lesson no matter how big or small. Don’t be afraid to share the knowledge you have with others. Depending on the activity you choose to participate in, it can keep you involved as an active member of society, which can make the world a better place.
When you are going through the process of learning, it is essential to be a generalist, which means don’t become an expert in everything. Usually, in order to become an expert, it is at the exclusion of other things and this can be very limiting as far as remaining open to new ideas. Also, find ways to improve your ability to transfer the information you learn in one area of your life to another. Most of what you learn is interrelated with multiple other aspects of life. The best way to think of the information you learn as branches on a tree and you as the trunk that supports and connects it all. Opportunities to learn are everywhere and with the sheer amount of information available, it can make it difficult to focus on a particular thing. The process can be made easier by getting rid of things that are holding you back, set goals, organizing your life, limiting the amount of time you spend engaging in activities that don’t improve your life and filling those holes with activities that do. In order to learn more, it is essential to constantly ask questions. This makes learning easier to do, almost effortless, and allows you to make connections with people you might not have if you didn’t ask. It is important to have a To-Learn list. It is similar to a To-Do list, but it contains items that you would like to learn more about. Some people say that they don’t have time to learn new things because their life is too busy. In order to be able to continue to learn, you need to make it a priority and learn and practice good time management skills. There are many simple and effective ways to fit in learning something new. Think about all the time you waste sitting in traffic or waiting for an appointment. What do you do while you are waiting? Like most us, you are probably on social media or the internet. Most Americans spend about 23 hours a week on social media or texting. Imagine if you took even half that time and devoted to it learning something new. You could listen to podcasts about topics that interest you or read a book. Even if you only read just 15 minutes a day, you would like be able to finish a new book every two weeks.
An increasing number of people are finding that lifelong learning is beneficial and scientific evidence is backing this up. We must remember that learning isn’t about just checking off requirements to get a degree. It’s about continued exploration, growth and enrichment that lasts a lifetime. When you do this, it helps to provide you with a purpose, focus and fuels your sense of fulfillment. What are you going to learn next?