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Lifelong learning

Discover:

What is lifelong learning?

Lifelong learning is a form of self-stimulated education that is geared towards personal development. While there is no standardized definition of lifelong learning, it has generally been considered to be learning outside of a formal educational institution such as a school, university or company.

However, lifelong learning does not necessarily have to be limited to informal learning. It is best described as voluntary, with the aim of encouraging personal development. The means to achieve this could amount to informal or formal education.

We are all lifelong learners

But what does personal fulfillment mean?

The reality is that most of us have goals or interests outside of our formal education and jobs. That's part of what it means to be human: we have a natural curiosity and we are natural learners. We develop and grow thanks to our ability to learn.

Lifelong learning recognizes that not all of our knowledge comes from the classroom.

  • For example, in childhood we learn to speak or ride a bike.
  • As adults, we learn how to use a smartphone or how to cook a new dish.

These are examples of the everyday lifelong learning that we practice on a daily basis, either through social interactions, trial and error, or self-motivated learning.

Personal fulfillment and development relate to natural interests, curiosity, and motivations that lead us to learn new things. We learn for ourselves, not for someone else.

Important checklist for lifelong learning:

  • Voluntary
  • Self-motivated or self-directed
  • Doesn't always come at a cost
  • Often informal
  • Self-study or instructions you are looking for
  • The motivation is personal interest or personal development

Lifelong learning in companies

Sometimes lifelong learning is used to describe a type of behavior that employers seek within the company. Employers recognize that formal qualifications are not the only way to identify and develop talent and that lifelong learning can be a desired trait.

Thanks to the rapid pace of today's knowledge economy, companies see lifelong learning as a core component of employee development. The idea is that employees should constantly learn in person to be adaptable and flexible in order to keep the company competitive and relevant.

This type of personal learning is often referred to as continuous learning. You can find out more about continuous learning and its importance for employees and employers here.

However, according to some researchers, there has been criticism of companies using the concept of lifelong learning to shift responsibility for learning to employees, rather than providing the resources, support and training necessary to develop this type of workforce.

Do I need to be proactive in lifelong learning?

Most people will learn something new at some point in their everyday life by simply talking to other people, searching the internet for their personal interests, reading the newspaper, or engaging in personal interests.

However, if the effort to learn something new is important, either for personal, family, or professional reasons, or if there is a need to have a more organized structure, then here are some steps to get started.

How can you integrate lifelong learning into your life?

1. Recognize your own personal interests and goals

Lifelong learning is about you, not other people and what they want. Think about what you are passionate about and what you envision for your own future.

If the advancement of your career is your personal interest, then there are ways to achieve this goal with self-directed learning. If learning history is your passion, there are also ways to deepen that interest.

2. Make a list of what you want to learn or do.

Once you have identified what motivates you, see what you want to achieve with that particular interest or goal.

To return to our example of having a passion for history, it may be of interest to broaden our knowledge of the history of Europe. Or maybe the interest is so strong that a PhD is a dream goal.

Both are different levels of interest that involve different learning methods.

3. Decide how you want to get involved and what resources are available.

Achieving our personal goals begins with figuring out how to start.

Researching and reading about the interest and goal can help formulate how to learn it.

With our history example: If you simply want to find out more about a certain historical period, you can discover books in the library catalog, blogs, magazines and podcasts on the topic or even museums and lectures.

The person who wanted to achieve a PhD in history as a personal goal could research university programs that could be done part-time or online, as well as the steps one would have to take to reach the PhD level.

4. Structure the learning objective in your life

Adjusting a new learning objective to fit your busy life requires consideration and effort. If you don't take the time and space to do it, it won't work.

It can easily lead to discouragement or even giving up on the learning initiative.

Plan how the requirements of the new learning initiative can fit into your life, or what you need to do to make it fit. For example, if learning a new language is the learning goal, can you set aside an hour a day? Or does 15 minutes a day sound more realistic?

Understanding the time and space you can devote to the learning goal can help you stick with it in the long run.

5. Make a commitment

Committing to your decision to embark on a new learning initiative is the last and most important step. When you've set realistic expectations and have the motivation to go through with it, to stand up for it and not find any excuses.

Examples of lifelong learning

Here are some of the types of lifelong learning initiatives you can pursue:

  • Learn a new skill (e.g. sewing, cooking, programming, rhetoric, etc.)
  • Self-taught study (e.g. learning a new language, researching a topic of interest, subscribing to a podcast, etc.)
  • Learning a new sport or activity (e.g. participating in martial arts, learning to ski, doing sports, etc.)
  • Learning to use a new technology (Smart devices, new software applications, etc.)
  • Acquisition of new knowledge (Participation in a course on online education or as a face-to-face course out of self-interest)

Benefits of lifelong learning

Integrating lifelong learning into your life can offer many long-term benefits, including:

1. Renewed self-motivation

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut if we do things just because we have to do them, like going to work or cleaning the house.

Finding out what inspires you puts you back in the driver's seat and reminds you that you can really do things in life that you want to do.

2. Recognition of personal interests and goals

Re-igniting what drives you as a person reduces boredom, makes life more interesting, and can even open up future opportunities.

You never know where your interests will take you if you focus on them.

3. Improving other personal and professional skills

While we are busy learning a new skill or acquiring new knowledge, we are also building other valuable skills that can help us in our personal and professional lives.

This is because we are using other skills to learn something new. For example, learning to sew requires solving problems. Learning to draw means developing creativity.

Competency development can include interpersonal skills, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, reflection, adaptability, and much more.

4. Improved self-confidence

Gaining more knowledge or competence in something can increase our self-confidence in both personal and professional life.

  • In our personal life, this confidence can result from the satisfaction of devoting time and effort to learning and improving, which gives us a sense of self-actualization.
  • In our professional life, this confidence can be the feeling of confidence in our knowledge and the ability to apply what we have learned.

Importance of lifelong learning

Whether we pursue personal interests and passions or professional ambitions, lifelong learning can help us achieve personal fulfillment and satisfaction.

It honors people's natural drive to explore, learn, and grow, and encourages us to improve our own quality of life and self-worth by paying attention to the ideas and goals that inspire us.