Not long ago, I wrote a post about five lessons I would teach my 17-year-old self. It was 40 years ago when I was 17. Along my life journey, both personally and professionally, I've learned a few things. If you follow the lessons I presented there, you'll gain valuable wisdom based on experience. It will help you accelerate your life.
This week, I'm continuing a series where I delve deeper into those five life lessons (in reverse order).
Check out my Life Lesson #5 post: Build a Rhythm of Life here.
Let's dive into Life Lesson #4: Be a Life-Long Learner.
The Power of Lifelong Learning
The idea of lifelong learning is something I haven't always embraced. In middle and high school, I was, at best, an average student.
After high school, college didn't work out for me, and I spent several years as an enlisted Marine. I didn't take advantage of the educational benefits available to me. Only when I left the Marine Corps at the age of twenty-six and enrolled in college full-time did I truly understand the value of lifelong learning. It wasn't an easy season of my life. I entered college after experiencing the world as a Marine and serving in a combat zone. I graduated from college while being married. Lifelong learning became a passion for me during this time. Since then, I've earned master's and doctoral degrees and continued to be an avid reader.
A few weeks ago, I retired from a fulfilling military career [side note: I joined the military right after failing out of college and reentered military service as a chaplain in my early 40s. Due to graduate education and experience requirements, it is not uncommon for chaplains to enter military service at an older age]. In the months leading up to my retirement and even after, I came to the realization that I no longer needed to constantly prove myself as I did in the military. I didn't have people knocking on my door, seeking my insights.
However, I still recognize the importance of lifelong learning for personal and professional growth. It involves continuously acquiring new knowledge, skills, and perspectives throughout life. Even though I have a terminal degree, when I retired from the military, I decided to maintain a strong rhythm of learning in my life. I spend much time reading, writing, and learning. Even though one chapter of my life has ended, I understand that there is so much I don't know. I'll never stop learning.
In today's rapidly changing world, where technology and industries evolve at an unprecedented pace, embracing lifelong learning has become more crucial than ever. In this post, we'll explore the importance of lifelong learning, how to develop a growth mindset, strategies for cultivating a thirst for knowledge, and the incredible benefits of embracing lifelong learning.
The Importance of Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning isn't about accumulating information; it's about staying relevant and adaptable in a dynamic world. The skills and knowledge we acquire early in life may become outdated. By keeping our minds actively engaged in continuous learning, we ensure that we're always equipped with the latest information and skills necessary to thrive in our personal and professional lives. Lifelong learning empowers us to embrace change, overcome challenges, and seize new opportunities.
Furthermore, lifelong learning fosters personal development and self-improvement. It broadens our horizons, expands our perspectives, and nurtures our intellectual curiosity. It equips us with the tools to navigate challenges and make informed decisions. Lifelong learning enables us to unlock our true potential and lead fulfilling and successful lives.
Developing the Right Mindset
When it comes to lifelong learning, we can adopt two fundamental mindsets: 1) a growth mindset (viewing intelligence, abilities, and talents as learnable and capable of improvement through effort) or 2) a fixed mindset (seeing these same traits as inherently stable and unchangeable over time).
A growth mindset lies at the heart of lifelong learning. It's about embracing challenges, persisting in the face of setbacks, and viewing failures as learning opportunities. By cultivating a growth mindset, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and unleash our true potential.
Developing a growth mindset involves recognizing that our qualities and capacities aren't fixed traits but can be developed over time. It requires embracing a positive attitude toward learning and seeing mistakes as valuable opportunities for growth.
With a growth mindset, we're more likely to take on challenges, seek feedback, and persist in the face of obstacles. By adopting a growth mindset, we can overcome self-doubt and achieve tremendous success in our personal and professional endeavors.
A fixed mindset is inherently limiting. People who live with this mindset remain stuck in old ways of thinking. Speaking from my own experience, as an Enneagram 1 (Reformer), I tend to see the right and wrong way to do things. I desire precision in how people speak and how others drive. I also fear making mistakes and having my lack of knowledge exposed. Living with this personality type can be challenging for both myself and others.
A personal example of this was my journey toward obtaining my doctoral degree. It took me a year longer than necessary to complete.
As I approached the finish line, I realized I needed to submit my dissertation or quit my degree. I had already invested too much time in my research to give up, so I completed and sent my work to my dissertation chair late on a February Sunday evening. I assumed he would send it back with necessary additions and corrections.
To my surprise, he responded on Wednesday of that week, telling me that I was ready to defend. He even asked if I wanted to defend as early as that Friday. He was right. I was ready. I had done good work. While I didn't defend that week, I scheduled my defense and successfully defended my dissertation two weeks later.
I learned from this experience that if I had remained stuck in my fixed mindset and not embraced a growth mindset, I would never have published my dissertation.
Strategies for Cultivating a Thirst for Knowledge
To cultivate a thirst for knowledge, we must adopt effective strategies that keep us motivated and engaged in learning. Here are a few ideas:
- Set Learning Goals: Define clear and achievable learning goals that align with your interests and aspirations. Breaking down your goals into smaller milestones can make learning more manageable and rewarding. Set deadlines and track your progress to stay accountable.
- Diversify Your Learning Sources: Explore various learning platforms, such as online courses, books, podcasts, and workshops. Embrace different formats and perspectives to gain a well-rounded understanding of the subjects you're interested in. Seek out experts in the field and learn from their experiences. Also, try reading experts from other fields and different perspectives.
- Engage in Active Learning: Simply consuming information passively isn't enough. Engage with the material by taking notes, asking questions, and applying what you learn in practical contexts. Actively participating in the learning process enhances comprehension and retention.
- Embrace Collaborative Learning: Learning becomes more enriching when we collaborate with others. Join study groups, participate in masterminds, and seek coaching opportunities to exchange ideas, receive feedback, and gain new insights from fellow learners. Engaging in discussions and sharing knowledge enhances our understanding and fosters a sense of community.
- Pursue Your Passions: Learning is most effective when it aligns with your passions. Identify topics or skills that genuinely excite you and dive deep into them. The journey becomes inherently enjoyable and fulfilling when you're passionate about what you're learning. Follow your curiosity and explore new areas of interest to keep the learning journey exciting and fulfilling.
Benefits of Embracing Lifelong Learning
Embracing lifelong learning brings numerous benefits that go beyond acquiring knowledge. Here are some remarkable advantages:
- Professional Growth: Lifelong learning enhances our professional skills, making us more competitive in the job market. Continuously updating our knowledge and acquiring new skills opens doors for career advancement and increases our value to employers. Lifelong learners are more likely to adapt to changing job requirements and seize new opportunities.
- Personal Development: Lifelong learning nurtures individual growth and self-improvement. It broadens our horizons, expands our perspectives, and fosters intellectual curiosity. Lifelong learners develop critical thinking skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities that are invaluable in all aspects of life. Learning equips us with the tools to navigate challenges and make informed decisions.
- Cognitive Health: Engaging in lifelong learning stimulates our brains and helps maintain mental vitality. Research shows that learning new things can improve memory, enhance problem-solving skills, and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Lifelong learners are more likely to stay mentally sharp, adaptable, and resilient as they age.
- Personal Fulfillment: Learning gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It allows us to explore our interests, discover new passions, and unlock our potential. Lifelong learning enriches our lives and provides ongoing opportunities for personal achievement and satisfaction. It brings a sense of accomplishment and joy as we acquire new knowledge and skills.
No matter what season of life you're in, lifelong learning is a transformative journey that empowers us to adapt, grow, and thrive in an ever-changing world. We unlock our full potential by recognizing the importance of lifelong learning, developing a growth mindset, implementing effective learning strategies, and embracing its numerous benefits. Lifelong learning is critical for a fulfilling and successful life.
The learning journey never ends. Embrace the power of learning and embark on a path of continuous growth and discovery. What will you do to embrace a renewed commitment to lifelong learning?
How will you build your commitment to lifelong learning? I'd love for you to send me a note and let me know.
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