When most people think of learning, they assume it is young people in their teens and 20’s who are the most able to learn and absorb new information.
You don’t often think of going back to school at 40.
But what if I told you that actually, some of the best students aren’t young people, but those who are older?
What if being older, isn’t an obstacle but a massive advantage? Not just in the classroom, but outside of it too.
Whether you’re thinking about going back to school or not. This article is going to explain to you how going back to school at 40, helps you create a golden age in 6 fundamental ways.
To make your life easier, I’ve created specific exercises for you to follow for each one, so I will be coaching you every step of the way to success. Ready?
1. Turn Back Time & Delay the Ageing Process
Let’s start with the facts.
You don’t have the same energy you used to. You have so much more going on. You’re already beginning to see grey hairs, wrinkles and signs of wear and tear.
Between juggling work, family, health, personal growth and everything else you do – why would you want to add more to your plate? Why would you want to add homework, assignments & extra reading on top of that?
You’ve already got the qualifications you needed and life is about way more than passing as test as a spotty teenager now.
Most people would assume this kind of added pressure would increase their stress levels and wrinkles.
What if I told you going back to school at 40 wouldn’t be even more draining, but would actually help you to slow down and even delay the ageing process?
Researchers based primarily at UCL in London carried out a study investigating how educational attainment effected pieces of DNA called telomere length. These telomere work to protect the edges of our chromosomes and diminish as we age.
In their research, they found that lower educational attainment was associated with shorter telomere length. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean that education is directly causing biological ageing, but what it does tell us is that it is one indicator.
Taking this further, neuroscientists at Ruhr-University Bochum found that, similar to young people, learning in older people also resulted in a surge of brain activity.
This helped to improve things like perception & broader brain activity, and these benefits did not diminish over time as a person ages.
In other words, even if you are older, it is still not too late to go back to school and create a new golden age. You can still reap many rewards, one of them being ageing.
What you should do now:
- Create a table of 3 columns, and on the left, write out a list of 20-30 topics or subjects that genuinely interest you.
- In the middle, write a short summary of why it interests you.
- And on the right, do some googling and write down the names of places or courses you find interesting.
2. Skyrocket Your Motivation
If you were anything like me, education was something you may not have understood the total importance of when you were younger.
Looking back now, can you honestly say you made the most of it?
Can you honestly say you learned to the best of your ability?
Are you OK with that potential remaining untapped – even now, decades later?
Going back to school at the age of 40+ means you have an advantage many other students do not have. Perhaps the most powerful advantage of all: choice.
Because you are choosing to go back to school, it inevitably means your focus and willpower have increased. Especially for those of you who dread the thought of learning again, and aren’t sure you can handle the challenge, I want you to remember this:
The simple truth is that you are not the same student you were before. The key reason things will be different is because you will get to learn not have to learn.
In many academic institutions, course, programmes I’ve been on, the people who are the most committed and engaged are often those who are a little bit older than average.
Gone are the days of doing things for the sake of it. Forget what you may have been like before.
This time, you have a chance to return as someone who really appreciates what they are doing, and understands the consequence of doing so. In doing so, you’ll be returning with a heightened sense of self motivation you may not have experienced ever before.
And you know what makes this even better? I regularly find with my coaching clients that this is a powerful way to open up great reserves of self motivation they never knew they had. The motivation gained from one area, boosts their motivation in all other areas too.
Just imagine what you could do with that extra confidence and self motivation in other areas of your life.
What you should do now:
- Write down and visualize in your mind your answer to this question: “If you experienced a powerful increase in motivation and confidence, how would it affect other areas of you life?”
- For each answer or point, expand on it by answering “Why is that important? What becomes possible for you as a consequence?”
- End by answering – “How do you feel now, after completing this exercise? Why?”
- Enjoy being a legendary motivated beast like none before. Send your answers to me on social media.
3. Use School to Remould & Expand Your Brain
When you think about your brain, what form do you imagine it takes?
Is it hard and fixed like concrete? Set in its path and unchangeable? Or is it more like jelly – lacking any structure or clear focus?
How you answer this question is going to determine whether the years ahead or golden, or grey.
I want you to understand your brain can change shape, just like blu tack. It isn’t fixed but soft, reusable and able to be shaped to serve to any purpose that you choose.
Going back to school at 40 will shake open the doors to a golden age in your life.
But don’t take my word for it.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you decide to become a master at life drawing and oil painting later in life.
What kind of soft or hard skills are required for to improve in this area?
I’d imagine they’d be things like:
- Creativity – to create pieces that are unique and inspiring
- Spatial awareness – to be able to notice patterns in objects, people, places
- Fine motor skills – so you can create detailed and enthralling pieces of art
- Concentration – due to the long hours of deliberate practice
- Oil painting/sketching – learning how different mediums work and when to use them
- Analytical skills – learning how to improve every time you create something
Now let’s say you spend 1 hour per day practicing these skills and currently you have a very low rank in each of those skills.
We all know it’s true that the more you practice something, the better you get. But beneath the surface (of your skull) there are some interesting and exciting things happening in your brain.
Each time you practice shading in mid tones in your life drawing, or spend hours in flow focused on one task – the neural pathways and networks in your brain are busy firing and communicating with one another.
As you continue to develop your art skills, more of your brain’s processing power is dedicated towards those brain cells. In time, your brain learns to adapt. That’s why you get quicker, better, and more creative. Your brain is working to create more efficient pathways, even new neurons when needed.
Knowing this, how motivated are you now? Can you imagine what that would do for your confidence?
Going back to school presents you with new opportunities to learn and develop, and the most exciting part is all of those skills will be immediately transferable.
It’s not just a class or a school anymore, its training for the next golden age of your life.
What you should do now:
- Think back to a time you really sucked at something, or if you’re currently suck at something.
- Can you remember what your period of progression was?
- Notice where and how you got faster at that area. How did that make you feel? How did it affect your overall performance?
4. Become An Inspiration to Everyone You Know
How many people do you know who even entertain the idea of going back to school at 40, let alone take action?
Understandably, not very many.
Our lives very quickly get shackled down and dampened under the weight of our commitments and responsibilities. Some are forced upon us through circumstance, and others are self selected.
Anyone could go back to school, learn new skills, grow as a person and become happier, smarter and more fulfilled. But not everybody will.
It is not ideas alone that fuel the world, it is people that take action. And there are very, very, few of those. Dreams come free, hustle?
That’s sold separately.
One of the oldest marathon runners in the world, and a person I hugely respect is a man called Fauja Singh.
There are tens of thousands of people who run in marathons around the world every year. Even those who participate in ultra marathons, and other extreme endurance events.
Clearly, they all require a high level of mental strength and grit. But there are two things that set Fauja Singh apart for me, from everyone else.
The first is the fact that even at aged 106, he is still running and participating in marathons.
I’m going to pause for a moment, very dramatically, to allow that fact to sink in: while most of us were sleeping, watching Netflix and eating cookies, this guy was running 26+ miles at the age of 100.
The second part, I love even more, as it goes to show it is never too late.
Now you might assume that Fauja had been running for years, and been a professional athlete for many years in order to be able to achieve this wonderful feat.
That’s the thing – he wasn’t. He started running seriously at the age of 89.
Again, let us stop and pause in admiration of this incredible man.
The key takeaway here is that he is a person with the same raw elements like the rest of us. He didn’t have some special gene, or talent, or resource.
It is never too late to pick up something new, and in doing so, you have the unique opportunity to become an inspiration to the people around you. (Here’s more proof by the way.)
As Fauja continues to run in races, he is now regularly joined too by the rest of his family and friends. Not only did he usher in a new age for himself of health, confidence and growth, but he brought others along with him too.
This could be your chance to do the same. We are social creatures and there is nothing like the praise, recognition and admiration of those we respect, to really boost our self esteem.
What you should do now:
- On the page you’ve been reflecting on this article, find a space and draw a circle with the word “People” inside.
- Create a spider diagram of 10 people who are the closest to you, that you care about
- Next to each of their names, write down how you going back to school could be an immensely powerful and positive thing for them. What would it mean for them to see you succeed at this? Why?
5. Trigger an Avalanche of New Opportunities
Going back to school by the way, doesn’t need to mean a classroom or academic environment. All it means is focusing your mind on self improvement in a particular area. After all, there are many types of intelligences out there for you to master.
Fauja Singh went “back to school” on the race track. In doing so, he triggered an avalanche of new opportunities for himself –sponsorship deals with companies, media requests and features, speaking requests, and more.
Developing yourself in a new area will mean you open the gates to opportunities that were closed off to you.
Like a secret mission being unlocked in a video game, you’ll be able to take advantage of what the other people around you can’t. A special all access pass to a whole new world.
As an artist that might be being commissioned for unique pieces of work, or holding your own exhibition one day.
As a business owner that might mean being able to employ your friends and family, and build a closer knit world where you can spend even more quality time with them every day.
You can’t be what you can’t see.
Once you unlock a level of mastery in this new subject or area, there could be a whole world of incredible opportunity waiting for you.
Are you willing to take it?
What you should do now:
- Thinking of the subject or area you might go back to school for, write down a list of people who are already successful at it.
- For each of these people, create a list of opportunities they benefit from
- Now write down and reflect on how having those same opportunities would benefit you. What would it mean?
6. Develop Powerful Levels of Organization & Efficiency
As I mentioned before, going back to school aged 40 or more will be hard.
It’s likely you already have a lot of things going on. From ensuring bills are paid on time, savings are put aside for the future, and your family/friends are well looked after.
If this is a challenge you are going to take on, it will come with more pressure and potential stress. This means you will need to be even more organised and efficient than you already are.
Now you might be dissuaded but actually, this isn’t a bad thing by any means. In fact, the opposite is true: it’s a great thing.
If you can learn the skill of managing your time effectively enough to make this happen, you will be even better for it.
This is a chance to release a higher level of organisation and efficacy in your life. The successful, growth oriented person realizes that in the realm of uncertainty lies opportunity.
You can’t grow and win as much reward in a comfortable, certain place, as you can in an uncertain, uncomfortable place.
What you should do now:
Now that you understand why you are doing it. It’s time to take small steps forwards:
- Run the numbers. Sit down, get organized and create a clear idea of what you want to commit to and what that will cost. Not just in terms of money, but also time. There is no reward without sacrifice. So I want you to go into this as clear on what they may be.
- Consider alternatives. Are there any tasters you can try? Are there some part time courses? Something small you can do to test it out first? Maybe a free online course on a site like Teachable, Udemy etc. Is there someone you can speak to?
- Discuss it, get support and stay organised. Once you do take the leap, bring people with you. You are the sum of the support you enlist. Make sure you take care of yourself, and you stay organized.
Going back to school at 40 or above may seem like a big challenge, but it’s definitely possible.
All it takes is your courage to take the first step and get out of your comfort zone. There’re many ways you can start learning again to invest in something that will make you an expert. It’s really never too late!
More Resources About Continuous Learning
- 17 Best Careers Worth Going Back to School for at 40
- 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself
- The Importance of Self Improvement No Matter How Old You Are
- How to Train Your Brain to Crave Lifelong Learning (And Why It’s Good)
- 15 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Learning for a Sharper Brain
- 10 Ways to Find Learning Motivation Even If You’ve Graduated Long Ago
Featured photo credit: Jason Strull via unsplash.com