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10 Things Only People Who Can’t Stop Learning Would Understand

10 Things Only People Who Can’t Stop Learning Would Understand

Learning matters in living a full and rich life. You can take your passing interest in art and explore it more deeply. You can also improve your career prospects by learning new skills. To discover the benefits of lifelong learning, read on.

1. They expand their library of books regularly.

As businessman Jim Rohn remarked, “Some people read so little they have rickets of the mind.” People with non-stop learning are often found browsing for books on Amazon, visiting their local library or book stores. Lifelong learners also ask friends and family for book suggestions, especially for non-fiction titles.

Tip: To reach your goals faster, choose books that relate to your goals: 15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss.

2. They take the time to ask questions when they take courses

Deep engagement with learning makes the experience more valuable and easier to remember. Fortunately, this tip is easy to use. Simply take a few minutes during a class break to write down some questions about the material. If you are taking a business course, you can always ask questions about how to apply the material to your career goals.

If you are uncomfortable asking questions in front of other people, there are other options. You can send questions by email or ask for an appointment to discuss the matter in depth.

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3. They learn to earn

Continuing education is vital to maintain your career growth. Lifelong learners view their education as a portfolio with several components. For example, project management professionals are required to pursue ongoing education in three areas: leadership, technical knowledge and management.

If you are seeking to increase your income, consider learning sales and marketing skills. Those skills make a great difference even if you are not in a traditional sales job.

4. They enjoy deeply exploring their interests and hobbies.

In the pursuit of the good life, lifelong learners know that career enhancement is not the only part of the picture. Foodies can explore their appreciation by  taking wine courses or improving their cooking skills (I have enjoyed taking wine courses at George Brown College in Toronto). In addition, there is much to be said for studying music, drawing and other creative efforts.

Tip: Read The Top 17 Ways Learning a Musical Instrument Gives You The Edge.

5. They enjoy the social aspect of learning.

By taking a course or attending a seminar, lifelong learners are exposed to other highly motivated people. It is sometimes difficult to find people who share a passion for lifelong learning. That’s why in-person learning is worth the price: the experience includes exposure to lifelong learners. There is also much to be said for the positive energy and excitement you can learn from a conference.

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6. They use what they learn to improve their lives.

Lifelong learners know that reading a good book on productivity, leadership or stress management is only the first step. If they read a productivity book such as “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, they know the value lies in application. Successful lifelong learners learn how to use the Weekly Review to improve their personal organization.

7. They know how to pursue lifelong learning on a budget

They know there are many different ways to acquire new knowledge and some of them are very easy to afford. For an easy to read introduction to a topic, I suggest reading a “For Dummies” book. I have found them a great way to learn new technology skills. There are also a wealth of resources available through many public libraries. Many public libraries provide access to traditional books, digital books, and video courses.

More learning options for learning on a budget:

Udemy.com: This online learning platform is known to provide frequent sales and discounts on courses covering technology (e.g. Microsoft Excel) , business skills, personal development.

Coursera.org: You can take over 1,000 college/university level courses for free through this website. There are specializations offered in Data Science, Data Mining, Cybersecurity and other fields.

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Clarity.FM: Have you ever wanted to get answers and advice directly from experienced business professionals? That’s what you can get from Clarity.FM. I have used this platform to obtain advice on online marketing and growing my email list.

8. They know how to learn from conversations with experienced people

Books, courses and other traditional forms of learning are effective. Yet, one must admit their limits – there is little interaction or customization. That’s why there is great learning value in speaking with a skilled person at length. A live interaction gives you the ability to learn and build a relationship at the same time.

To make the most out of a learning meeting with another person, take the time to prepare. Specifically, read about the person’s background and accomplishments (e.g. read their articles and books and their Linkedin profile). In addition, come prepared with a written list of questions. Finally, plan to pay for the lunch or dinner with the expert.

9. They know how to use journals and reflection to learn from their mistakes and errors

Everyone makes mistakes, even lifelong learners dedicated to learning a better way to reach their goals. That’s where reflection and journals come to play. For example, if you take a risk at work and it blows up, take the time to review the activity. Take twenty minutes (or more) to write in a journal about the experience. Ask yourself what lessons you can draw from the mistake. What would you have done differently? How could you have prepared better for the experience? Reflecting on your mistakes transforms them into valuable learning experiences.

For more inspiration on the benefits of keeping a journal, read these articles from Lifehack.org:

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6 Ways Journaling Will Change Your Life

10 Ways Journaling Can Improve Your Life

10. They schedule time for learning on their calendar

Successful people dedicated to lifelong learning understand that they must allocate serious time to learning. One approach is to spend an hour every morning on study – dedicating an hour every day to work on your skills puts you into the ranks of top performers. In addition, some people use one lunch hour per week to attend a webinar, read a book or work on another educational activity.

Featured photo credit: Young adult girl reading book near the window. via shutterstock.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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