4 Keys to Becoming A Lifelong Learner

Do you love learning?

Or does hearing the word itself scare or bore you?

Does it bring up negative feelings of being stuck in a classroom for multiple hours of the day, forced to pay attention and demonstrate that you can pass exams?

Regardless of whether you loved or hated school, separate the word learning from the word school. Get rid of that association.

If you want to consistently improve the quality of your life, you need to fall in love with learning. You need to become a lifelong learner.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term. But in the most basic terms, a lifelong learner is someone who keeps acquiring new skills and capabilities well past their formal education years. I personally associate lifelong learning with a love of learning.

And lifelong learning is more important now than ever before.

In a digital world, industry, business and technology evolve so quickly that if you can’t evolve with it (i.e. continue learning and picking up new skills) you might get left behind.

And that’s just looking at it from a career standpoint.

Lifelong learning is also valuable for enriching your overall life, improving your mental health, as well as your various relationships.

When it comes to building your desire and passion for learning, set yourself up for success with the 4 keys to becoming a lifelong learner, listed below.

1. Stay Curious

Curiosity is a must when it comes to lifelong learning.

As kids, we’re all curious. Everything fascinates us. Somewhere along the way, some of us lose sight of some of that curiosity.

But at any age, curiosity is powerful. It adds color, vibrancy, passion and pleasure to our lives.

Whether or not you consider yourself a naturally curious person, there are simple steps you can take to keep or improve your curiosity. Some ideas include:

  • Don’t worry about sounding stupid. This goes hand in hand with living with a growth mindset (which if you’ve read many of my other posts, you know I’m a big fan of).
  • Ask more questions — of your friends, peers, coworkers, of the books/articles you read, videos/movies you watch, etc. You might not think you’re good at this, but with consistent practice, you can re-train your brain to think in questions.
  • Be a thinkerer. This term comes from Ian Leslie’s book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It. Leslie created this term by mixing “think” and “tinker,” A thinkerer thinks and does; analyzes and manufactures. According to Leslie, both Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs were thinkerers. They had big ideas, and they focused on the implementation of those ideas. They also focused on the minute, the nitty gritty. In other words, find ways to learn that force you to take action rather than passively consume information.

If you’re trying to learn a new skill to strengthen your job prospects, curiosity helps propel you to do the work necessary.

When it comes to your overall personal development, curiosity helps you avoid stagnation because it makes you crave more out of your understanding of the world, your life, and yourself.

Curiosity is good for your mental health because it opens up a world of possibilities. It helps you pursue more of what adds color, vibrancy, passion, and inspiration into your life

2. Be selective about the content you consume

Let’s face it. There is waaaayyy too much information accessible these days.

Don’t let yourself get burnt out by spending large amounts of time on information and content that drains you mentally (or that becomes mind-numbing). This does nothing to help keep you curious.

Instead, it enables you to waste more time by means of “needing a break” or always needing “me-time” in which you do nothing to help you unwind or escape.

For more tips on how to be selective about the content you consume, check out this post:

Conscious Content Consumption: Take Control of Your Online Diet

3. Choose content mediums wisely

In line with choosing wisely when it comes to content consumption, you must choose content mediums wisely. A content medium is the form in which you will consume information.

Chances are, you have at least somewhat of an idea about what you like when it comes to learning. Play to your strengths and make learning more effortless and enjoyable!

For example:

  • You know you focus better with a physical book vs an iPad or Kindle. Play to that strength.
  • Someone can say that in order to learn, you need to read more. But if you struggle to pay attention and always end up abandoning articles, or books, stop forcing yourself to read. Give videos a try.
  • Do you absorb information better when you hear it? Try podcasts or YouTube videos.
  • Maybe you learn best from other people that you trust. Try learning from your curious friends and family members through discussion or more informal “lectures” (i.e., let them teach you what they know!).

You get the point. Set yourself up for success by playing to your strengths. Abandon conventional “wisdom” about what you NEED to do to learn, and do more of what works for you.

Sounds simple, but I know I’ve personally forced myself to finish reading a book because I was “learning,” even though for some subjects, books lose my attention span. Needless to say, it was not the best use of my time.

4. Stay true to yourself

Lifelong learning should place no limitations on what you learn. The point of falling in love with learning, well, is that you must fall in love.

Forcing yourself to love something won’t work. Plain and simple. No matter how strong your motivation and willpower to prove you can learn something. Maybe you will learn it, but you won’t be happy in the long run, and eventually it catches up to you.

And as a result you may learn to resent what you’ve worked so hard to learn (you may even resent learning itself).

Stay true to yourself and your passions. Follow them, along with the 3 keys above, and you will be successful.

There’s obviously more that goes into the actual learning, to retaining information and becoming better at something and so on. But without these 4 foundational steps, you might find it hard to make progress.

Remember: Your Ability To Learn is NOT a Fixed Trait

Were you a top student in school? Doesn’t matter. When it comes to lifelong learning, that slate is wiped clean. So whether you think you’re already brilliant (nothing left worth your time to learn) or are afraid to learn (because you struggled in school), it doesn’t matter.

There is always room to improve.

There is always room to become a better learner.

There is always room to pick up new skills, learn how to be a better partner, mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, friend, employee, boss, etc.

Adopt this mentality, and you’ll be well equipped to improve the quality of your life — no matter what obstacles the modern world throws your way.

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