The Benefits of Lifelong Learning and Discovery
By Julia Barnard
Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have. Louis E. Boone
Do you enjoy learning? Is it a pleasure to discover new things, or do you associate the word ‘learning’ with being sat behind a desk at school being fed information you have no control over? Happily, as adults we can choose what we want to learn and the skills we want to develop. Learning should be a lifelong venture that should feature in all stages of your life. Even retirement should be an opportunity to try new things rather than letting it all go because you are no longer doing paid work. Recognising that learning is not just about books can make the process enjoyable for many.
Learning gives you opportunities to discover new skills and acquire knowledge. However, it offers more than that. It is an opportunity to renew your energies, get excited, and curious. As you learn and get absorbed in a new project, you are giving yourself the chance to experience flow which is a sure-fire way to happiness. Learning can help prevent boredom as you have allowed more opportunities to come into your life. Importantly, you will learn things about yourself. As you develop your skills, it may take you to new places and perhaps push you to face your fears. You will learn to not be afraid of change and how to face a challenge.
Love of learning has been identified by Seligman as one of the 24 character strengths. It is a strength that we can all nurture, however for some it is a signature strength and as such is a pleasure to use. Using this strength is also an opportunity to work on and develop other character strengths. For instance learning a new skill requires persistence. It is a chance to be creative and boost a sense of optimism. When you always have new things to try in your life, things you still want to know about, you continue to have something to look forward to.
Learning is also good for your brain. Research indicates that for people who had opportunities to work on their reasoning and memory skills their cognitive decline had slowed down. This reduces the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
It is worth pointing out that it is not just about the act of learning. What you learn can help you live a better life. For instance, knowing how to be happy, healthy and live well. Knowing why exercise is important rather than accepting it as a broad statement made by health experts. Such knowledge gives you more control over your life and helps you make informed decisions.
Tips to propel you on your learning quest
- Learning can take whatever shape or form works for you. Whether you attend a class, read a book or website or get hands-on is up to you.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you don’t like it, don’t do it again. Simple.
- Your learning should always be interesting and a challenge you can manage. You may need to take your learning to the next level to get the most out of it. Try to reflect regularly on how you are progressing.
- When you are trying something for the first time, it may not work out exactly as you planned. This is okay. You are learning after all. So learn from what went wrong, and go again.
- Learning can be a great opportunity to exercise your persistence and belief that you will succeed. Imagine how it would feel to become an expert in your area? Persistence and patience will help get you there.
- Decide what level you want to take your learning to. Is it to expand on your existing knowledge so you become an expert, or is it an opportunity to branch out somewhere completely different?
- Take a trip to the library. Explore the shelves, especially those you would not ordinarily visit. See what interesting pieces of information you can pick up. You never know, something might pique your interest.
- Read blogs written by people who are dedicated to your topic of interest. They will offer a unique insight into one person’s perspective on the subject.
- Keep learning and remain open-minded. Remember the first thing you read may not be correct or the only way to do things. Remain open to other viewpoints.
- Set yourself a goal of learning something new every day or week.
- Try to enjoy the here and now of learning, rather than just focusing on the end goal.
- Learn more about what brings happiness into your life.
- Grab a puzzle book the next time you are at the newsagents. They give your brain a great workout.
- Keep it varied. That way you are always interested and your brain is occupied.
- Don’t be afraid of change or the opportunity to do something differently to how you would normally.
Copyright Julia Barnard 2009
Julia Barnard is a professional counsellor living in Adelaide, Australia. She provides an online counselling service through her website http://www.makethechange.com.au, which offers counselling at a time and place that suits you. Julia also writes articles and tips for the website aimed at enhancing wellbeing and promoting good mental health.
Medina, John: Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School”