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How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

Written by Scott H Young
Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.
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Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint, gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life, and is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of continuous learning can be a source of enjoyment.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning can find it difficult to make the effort.

Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

1. Always Have a Book

It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

Just by shaving off a few minutes between activities in my day, I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

Reading helps you cultivate curiosity, expand your imagination, and develop more compassion for those who are different from you, making this a great habit of continuous learning.

2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

We all have to-do lists with the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list where you write ideas for new areas of study.


Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill set, or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down and make a plan to start on each.

3. Get More Intellectual Friends

Start spending more time with people who think. Spend time with people who are not just smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills and knowledge and thinking critically about the world around them. Their habits will rub off on you and push you more toward continuous learning.

Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

4. Guided Thinking

Albert Einstein once said,

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough; you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating, or contemplating over ideas you have learned. This is often best done in the early morning hours before your brain is occupied with the day’s tasks.

5. Put It Into Practice

Skill-based continuous learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on a coding language isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, so it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice and build muscle memory, as well as long-term memory.

6. Teach Others

You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.[1]


Start a blog, mentor someone, or even discuss ideas with a friend. Consider a book club, volunteer tutoring, or a personal vlog to get started.

7. Clean Your Input

Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but they often lack substance.

I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas, but every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

8. Learn in Groups

Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills and try observing more experienced individuals.

Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience. Take a photography class, join a hiking group, or start a Saturday dinner group where you and your friends experiment making new dishes.

9. Unlearn Assumptions

You can’t add water to a full cup. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview if you are genuinely interested in continuous learning. Finding information that supports what you already believe will lead to limited perspectives, which will keep you inside a knowledge box that prevents learning.

Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

10. Find Jobs That Encourage Learning

Pick a career that cultivates a continuous learning culture. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.


Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you. This may mean volunteering at something new or even starting a side business that will force you to learn and grow.

11. Start a Project

Set out to do something you don’t know how to do, whether in a personal or business environment. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try creating a painting. This project can take one hour or one month, but it should challenge you to stretch your skills and learn new ones.

12. Follow Your Intuition

Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect, and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, so making choices on a whim has been stamped out. However, the decisions we make with our gut can often lead to the most positive changes in life.

13. The Morning Fifteen

Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for continuous learning and reflection.


If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off until later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

14. Reap the Rewards

Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help with. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

15. Make Learning a Priority

Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn, so the desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make constant learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life. Set learning goals, make a plan, and take action to keep yourself moving.

The Bottom Line

Continuous learning doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. Setting even a small goal to learn something new each week can help you build more knowledge and become a more well-rounded person. Learn more and watch how your life becomes more interesting.

More About Continuous Learning

Featured photo credit: Tran Mau Tri Tam via unsplash.com


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