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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

I am in love with lifelong learning. It was not always that way, however.

To be perfectly honest, I used to think that the only way to learn was in school. And I was not always a big fan of “conventional learning”, unless it was a course that really interested me.

It was not until I expanded my own definition of learning that the love affair began. The retreats, the books, the conferences, and even my own missteps. All a means for learning.

Now I cannot learn enough or get my hands on enough information. Lifelong learning is like a potato chip to me; I want more. As a matter of fact, as of the writing of this article, I have about 12 different books going at the same time.

Why?

Simple. It sparks my curiosity and the curiosity sparks my quest to be a lifelong learner.

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” ― Samuel Johnson

The more I engage and employ lifelong learning, the more I experience some really cool things. Not only lifelong learning improved my brain functions (like my memory), but it has supported my success and personal growth as a business owner and made me a more effective coach.

Not to mention, as an introvert, it gives me a lot of material to work with in social settings, which is a great side benefit.

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The bottom line: lifelong learning has been truly instrumental in adding new tools and knowledge to my metaphorical toolbox.

The Importance of Lifelong Learning

If you think about it, the brain, while mostly grey matter has muscle. Like any muscle or skill, the less you use it the more chance for it to atrophy. But keeping your brain strong is not the only benefit.

In the article Benefits of Lifelong Learning, Marjaan Laal states that lifelong learning sharpens the mind, increases confidence, enhances interpersonal skills, expands career opportunities and impacts the ability to effectively communicate.[1]

How is that so?

When we learn, we expand our knowledge base obviously but it goes much farther than that. Learning can help us to step out of a pattern or routine. The more we do that, the more confidence we create.

It moves us past that point of complacency. It in turn enhances and improves the skills we already have by helping us to not only strengthen them, but also add to them.

It is also beneficial to our health. While it may not cure diseases like Alzheimer’s, for example, it has been reported that learning can slow the progression of diseases that impact the brain.

John Coleman stated in his article Lifelong Learning is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet and Your Social Life that even reading for a short period everyday can reduce stress levels.[2] With all the demands we face on a daily basis, who does not want a little stress relief?

If you are ready to reap the many benefits of lifelong learning be sure to read on.

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Train Your Brain to Crave Learning

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The more we do something and notice the benefits of doing that something, the more apt we are to do it again and again. Enter a habit. Training our brains to crave learning is no different.

Here are some simple ways to begin to train your brain to crave lifelong learning:

1. Create an Objective for Your Learning

That may sound funny, but it truly does help to have an objective in mind.

For example, maybe your objective is to reduce your stress levels or find different ways to relax.

Having an objective not only makes the learning beneficial but gives it a purpose.

2. Start Small

If lifelong learning has not been your “thing”, trying to eat this learning elephant in one bite makes it more difficult to stick with. It helps to break down the learning into bite sized pieces.

For example, instead of trying to read a certain number of pages in a book every day, why not start with 15 minutes, two or three times a week?

After you have cemented that small habit into place, you can then add to it.

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3. Make it Fun.

If learning is a chore or becomes a chore, the act of doing it obviously decreases. Have some fun with your learning.

For example, for every new learning opportunity you take, give yourself some “props”. Give yourself a gold star. Make learning a game.

Whatever is going to make learning fun for you, make sure to engage the fun!

How to Cultivate the Habit of Lifelong Learning

If you don’t know how to begin lifelong learning, here’re some ideas for you:

1. Stick Your Nose in a Book

The most obvious way to continue learning is to read often and read a variety of books. Benefits of reading are many. Here you can find great books to read:

2. Engage in Deeper Thoughts and Conversations

Nothing shakes up the routine of the day-to-day surface level stuff than a deep conversation or deep thinking.

If you find that you do not have folks in your world that you can have those deeper conversations with, not to worry. Facebook , LinkedIn , and MeetUp are loaded with all sorts of groups engaging in some pretty cool conversations around topics of interest.

3. Check out Some Cool Podcasts and Videos

In your hot, little hand you hold a magical tool for learning. Education is open online in this era.

If you have not downloaded the YouTube or the TED app, give them a whirl. Some nice TED talks and podcast recommendations for you:

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4. Enroll in Some Extra Curricular Classes

Community colleges offer adult learning programs and classes for professional development with a cheap price.

If attending classes in a brick’s and mortar school is not your thing, no worries. Online courses are always available via sites like Udemy and many more:

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

5. Leverage Your Missteps and Mistakes

Missteps and mistakes are great learning tools. Rather than judge yourself or use your missteps and mistakes as a 2×4 to beat yourself up with, take them as an opportunity to learn.

One thing that I find helpful is to take my missteps and mistakes and journal about them. To get the learning rolling I begin with a question like, “What am I meant to learn from this?” and then I let me pen just go. No overthinking or editing, just top of the mind writing.

If these ideas do not do it for you or you want more, be sure to check out Scott Young’s article right here on Lifehack:

15 Steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning

Conclusion

The keys to benefiting from lifelong learning are to:

  1. Set your objective for learning. When there is a purpose behind the learning, the learning becomes more compelling.
  2. Start small, in bite-sized pieces.
  3. Make learning new skills fun. Choosing the topics that most interest you and the way in which you want to learn that best suits you.

Following these simple steps and you will have your brain craving lifelong learning in no time!

More About Lifelong Learning

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Pam Thomas

Chief Change Officer @What's Within U; Helping people dig out from the ruts that keep them stuck personally and professionally.

How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques How to Talk to Strangers When You Feel Crippled With Social Anxiety Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

10 Ways to Find Learning Motivation (Even After You’ve Graduated)

10 Ways to Find Learning Motivation (Even After You’ve Graduated)

As human beings, we have a built-in desire to learn and expand our knowledge to grow and develop. The type of learning can be different between people. Some people love to hear about what other people are doing—the gossips— others love reading books about nature and some enjoy reading the news. We all have it and it is built in.

Like all learning, some of the knowledge gained is useful and some less useful. Gossiping and commenting on the latest news is not going to develop you very much as a person, and in all likelihood is going to make you angry, sad or happy, depending on your viewpoint.

While other knowledge, such as learning a new skill or a new language, can help you to grow intellectually and give you skills that can lead to better career prospects and an increase in your income.

The difficulty for many people is finding the learning motivation after we have finished our formal education. For example, I did not enjoy learning languages when I was at school. Now, many years after I left school, I find it hard to motivate myself to learn the language of the country I find myself living in, even though to do so would greatly improve my income growth potential and enable me to make new friends.

We are living in rapidly changing times. The work we do today is at risk of being replaced by automation and AI. If we want to continue to grow and develop, we need to make sure we are learning new skills faster than automation, and AI can keep up.

So, here are a number of ways that can help motivate you to continue to learn after you have graduated from school.

1. You Get to Choose What You Learn

When we were at school, we had little choice about what we learned. We all learned to the same thing.

In my case, the basic subjects were maths, languages (English, Latin and French) and science. It did not matter that I hated maths, I still had to learn it.

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Today, I can choose what I want to learn. That makes learning new things a lot of fun. Over the last twelve months, I have learned about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), social media marketing and meditation. All of these subjects have been fascinating and have been enjoyable to learn.

2. Remind Yourself of the Outcome

One of the things I have chosen to learn this year is Korean. I live in Korea and do have what I describe as ‘survival Korean’, but I wanted to take my ability to communicate in Korean to fluency.

I do not enjoy learning languages, largely because it is a slow process. So on the days I am not ‘in the mood’ to learn, I remind myself of why I am learning it.

I visualize being able to walk into a shop or restaurant and having a full conversation with the staff. Or riding in a taxi and discussing the latest news with the driver. Doing this very quickly gets me back ‘in the mood’ and I am soon learning more verbs, nouns and conjugations.

3. Make Your “Why” for Learning Emotionally Strong

Learning something new so you can win an argument in your office is not likely to be a strong reason to learn something new. Sure, that brief moment of victory may give some satisfaction but it will not last.

But if your reason for learning is so you develop a new skill that will make your work better or more efficient, you are always going to have a strong incentive to continue learning.

Before beginning a new learning project, think about why you want to learn that particular subject and make sure the reason why is strong and connected to some form of emotional need.

When your reasons are connected to an emotion such as happiness, love or fulfilment, you are always going to find the motivation to sit down and learn.

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4. Have a Goal

My goal for learning Korean is to do a TED-like presentation in Korean in June next year. Every time I sit down to study Korean, I remind myself of my goal and I imagine introducing myself in Korean to the audience.

But not only that, I also want to speak the language so well that if someone was listening to me on the radio or on a podcast, they would not be able to tell I was a non-native Korean speaker. This goal not only gives me a time pressure (speaking fluently by June next year), it also gives me some excitement because I can imagine how I will feel when I sit down after giving my talk.

5. Mix up How You Learn

When I was at university, there was only one way to learn and study — read the textbooks. My degree was in law and if you have never sat down to read a land law textbook, you have never discovered how intensely boring a textbook can be.

Today, we have so many different ways to learn. We can begin with Wikipedia to get a basic understanding of a subject, we can then do a search on Amazon to find books on the subject, and we can go to YouTube and watch videos on the subject. All three of these avenues of learning I’ve used recently when I learned about neuro-linguistic programming.

It was fun and enjoyable. I could choose which way I wanted to learn depending on my mood.

6. Join Online Groups

Discussion groups are a great way to maintain your motivation when learning. Facebook, Quora and WhatsApp all have user groups you can join to get involved in discussion groups and have your questions answered.

You can even post a question on Twitter and with the right hashtags, attract other people from all over the world to answer your questions or get involved in a discussion.

If you find your motivation is waning, post a question in one of these groups and see what happens. You will soon find your motivation again.

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7. Set a Fixed Time Each Day to Study

This one has really worked for me. Earlier this year, I decided to begin waking up at 5 AM (to join Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club[1]). The question I had was: what would I do between 5 AM and 6 AM? The answer for me was to use that time to study Korean.

Now, six months into the journey, I love waking up at 5 AM, and sitting down with my morning coffee and learning Korean. I begin with doing my self-introduction while walking around my living room imagining presenting in front of an audience. I then spend twenty minutes learning new verbs and I finish off watching a video from my favourite Korean teacher (Korean Unnie[2]) on YouTube. Six months in and when I wake up, I know exactly what I am going to do and I have no difficulties with motivation.

8. Create Mini Goals

A few months ago, I set the goal of being able to ask a taxi driver to drop me off in front of the subway station. This was something I regularly found myself wanting to do but did not know exactly how to do it. So I asked a Korean friend of mine how to say the sentence and I then spent a couple of study sessions practising it.

The next time I was in a taxi, I used the phrase to ask the taxi driver to drop me off in front of the subway station and he understood me perfectly. WOW! The feeling of pride I had was fantastic. This gave me more motivation to continue to find other phrases I wanted to learn to use in my everyday life.

Setting mini-goals that you can use to check your progress is a sure way to keep you motivated to continue your learning journey.

9. Seek Different Ways to Learn

Whenever you find your motivation disappearing, change the way you learn.

Last year, I decided I wanted to learn how to use Adobe InDesign and I began my learning on YouTube with one of my favourite Adobe experts, Terry White. Terry White has put together a series of videos called “How To Get Started With… ” and these videos are fantastic to get you started. Once I had completed that video, I enrolled in an online course on Skillshare that took my understanding of InDesign to the next level and once that was completed I gave myself a project to develop a workbook in InDesign.

While I was creating the workbook, there were a few more things I needed to learn, so I searched Google for ways to learn how to do them.

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By the end of three months, I was proficient in using InDesign and it is now one of my favourite Adobe tools. By mixing up the way I learned, I found myself motivated and eager to learn more.

10. Give Yourself Mini-Rewards

This is a great way to keep yourself motivated. When you have successfully completed a new area of learning, reward yourself. The reward could be a night out with your friends to celebrate successfully mastering a new area, or it could be buying yourself a new toy.

Having these mini-rewards taps into the “pleasure/pain” part of your brain and your brain soon begins to understand that when you successfully study, something pleasurable happens. When your brain understands this, all you need to do is remind yourself of what reward will come whenever you feel a lack of motivation and your motivation will soon return.

Final Thoughts

Learning something new can be difficult. In the rush of initial excitement, it is easy to be motivated to learn; but over time, that initial excitement recedes and you need to find other ways to motivate yourself.

These ten tips will help to make sure when you have gone through the initial enthusiasm and learning more becomes difficult, you have the means to get motivated to continue your journey and expand your knowledge.

More Resources About Boosting Motivation

Featured photo credit: Lonely Planet via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Robin Sharma: Be Wise, Early Rise
[2] YouTube: Korean Unnie 한국언니

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