Lifelong Learning


The V&A

Forever growing

If you’re like me, a new year sometimes starts in September, sometimes in January and occasionally even February. My emotional print from my school days often makes me feel September is the start of the cycle of learning. As our world moves forward with new technologies, new products and services, the importance of new learning becomes emphasised. However, in my experience, learning for the sake of learning can, in itself, be a rewarding experience.

Lifelong learning is a deliberate and voluntary act that can enhance our understanding of the world around us, provide us with more and better opportunities and improve our quality of life. We gain incidental and accidental learning when we learn as part of our regular work or from co-workers and when we access training in the workplace or off-site. I’m convinced, having coached senior executives in their fifties and sixties, that a person can continuously improve their life by continuing to learn until the day they die.

A commitment to lifelong learning begins with creating and maintaining a positive attitude to learning both for personal and professional development. Such a commitment builds an ability to acquire new knowledge and apply strategies which support personal growth and the ability to adapt to change.

Learning for its own sake brings its own advantages. In whatever context, learning:

  • Boosts our confidence and self-esteem
  • Makes us less risk averse and more adaptable to change when it happens
  • Helps us achieve a more satisfying personal life
  • Challenges/expands our ideas and beliefs
  • Can be fun

In a business context, our capacity to earn is often directly related to our willingness to learn; whilst in a personal context, an openness to learn creates more innovation, change and fun in our lives, as we open ourselves up to new areas of exploration and experience. Often learning is not just a bookish interest for investigation and research, it can also be a willingness to experience something new, visit new places, do different things.

Some writers in this field have called the commitment by an individual to the process of continuous learning as ‘Personal Mastery’, but I like to call it ‘Forever Growing!’ Scientists in neuroscience now tell us that the neuro-plasticity of our brains enable us to learn and grow throughout our life, as the brain can reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life, even allowing the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.

So, with such a fantastic tool at our command, why not expose our minds, our hearts and our bodies to new knowledge, new experience and new learning? Not only will we benefit, but those around us can be stimulated into new explorations and experience. Have you noticed how, in the work context, when someone has gone somewhere different, perhaps where you have not been, their speaking of the experience stimulates interest, enquiry and even sometimes inspiration to go explore there yourself. Your life will be richer for it, if you do!

So as the new year begins in 2018 – the question is what to consciously choose to learn? I remind myself – one new Audible book a month (subjects wide and various), a bi-annual business conference to update my entrepreneurial skills, a monthly professional video class for my continuing professional accreditation and every day some reading or other to expand my knowledge and awareness of what is going in our world. But above all, the conscious choice to remain open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new learning – that’s the way to be ‘forever growing’.

Blog originally published here.

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