Lifelong learning—a good resolution
It’s that time when we begin to think about the year ahead. As you begin the New Year, here’s a resolution you can make that’s not only good for you, but it can be fun too… Lifelong Learning!
What is the meaning of lifelong learning? Now, if that phrase brings with it images of boring lectures and endless homework, stay with me for a minute here. There are many benefits of lifelong learning, and there are a lot more ways and types of learning than what you may have experienced back in your school classroom days. Lifelong learning can happen anywhere, and while a lot of us focus on learning as a means to employment, it turns out that the importance of lifelong learning for our own personal fulfillment is equally good for us from a health perspective. The key is novelty and complexity. Advances in scientific brain research have shown that the best activities for a healthy brain are those that are new and challenging to each particular person. As such, one of the advantages of lifelong learning is maintaining a healthy brain!
Of course, it helps to focus on something that interests you, so you’ll actually want to take the time to learn it. For example, I may be good at many things, but sewing has never been one of them. Other than replacing the occasional button, my knowledge as a seamstress is pretty lacking, and if you’d asked me five years ago if I’d ever learn to sew well, I would have said “no” with confidence. So, when I was given a new sewing machine several years ago, it stayed in its original sealed packaging and took up space in my attic. That is, until a few months back when I needed to create a costume that was impossible to find for purchase. Between the instruction booklet that came with the machine, YouTube and hours of persistence, I managed to create a clever costume, learn something new and do something good for my brain!
Still need some convincing about the benefits of lifelong learning? Here is a Top Ten list, courtesy of lifelong learning guru, Nancy Merz Nordstom from her book Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years:
10. Lifelong learning helps fully develop natural abilities.
“We all have innate natural abilities,” says Nordstrom. “Some of which might not be readily apparent.” Unless we’ve had exposure to something, we might not even know we have the ability. Had I not needed to create a costume, I might never have known that I can actually sew! But by trusting in the advantages of lifelong learning, I did my homework, put in the time and created a new skill set for myself.
9. Lifelong learning opens the mind.
Nordstrom says that, “There’s nothing like listening to or taking part in stimulating discussions to help us see the other side of an issue. That give-and-take opens our minds and brings us to a whole new level of enlightenment. ”That’s a large aspect of the importance of lifelong learning—opening our mind to new information allows us to see things in a new way. It builds empathy, trust and confidence where there may not have been any before.
8. Lifelong learning creates a curious, hungry mind.
The more adult learners discover about any subject of interest—whether it’s history, current events, politics or the culture of other countries—the more they want to learn. According to Nordstrom, “There’s a big world out there just waiting for our exploration. Our drive and desire to learn fuels itself and we keep going, constantly looking for more to feed our hungry minds.”
7. Lifelong learning increases our wisdom.
“Lifelong learning enables us to put our lives in perspective,” says Nordstrom. “It increases our understanding of the whys and the whats of previous successes and failures, and it helps us understand ourselves better.” The importance of lifelong learning is that it allows us to understand more about ourselves and our world.
6. Lifelong learning makes the world a better place.
Through the community service aspect of lifelong learning, adult learners can give back to their communities and to the world. “We’ve spent…years interacting with the world,” says Nordstrom. “What we’ve learned during that time can be translated into real value for the betterment of society. Our wisdom, insight—it’s all of tangible benefit to the world around us.”
5. Lifelong learning helps us adapt to change.
According to Nordstrom, “Lifelong learning enables us to keep up with society’s changes—especially the technological ones. A learning environment with our peers not only makes it possible to stay abreast of change, it also makes it fun.” This is one of the most relevant benefits of lifelong learning in our time—we’re able to keep up with quickly changing technologies and interfaces.
4. Lifelong learning helps us find meaning in our lives.
“Sometimes it’s difficult looking back on our lives,” says Nordstrom. “But lifelong learning gives us the benefit of real perspective and enables us to find true meaning in the hills and valleys of our past.” Learning from our mistakes and growing as a result allows us to take full advantage of every opportunity.
3. Lifelong learning keeps us involved as active contributors to society.
Nordstrom points out that when we are taking part in educational programs and offering our expertise to society through meaningful community involvement, we’re “not a strain on society; we’re an incredible asset.”
2. Lifelong learning helps us make new friends and establish valuable relationships.
No one enjoys loneliness. As a result of lifelong learning, adults have opportunities to meet new people and forge friendships and relationships with others. This allows us to create and maintain the friendships that help us enjoy an active social life.
1. Lifelong learning leads to an enriching life of self-fulfillment.
Concludes Nordstrom, with lifelong learning “We expand our awareness, embrace self-fulfillment and truly create an exciting multi-dimensional life. It doesn’t get any better than that!”
So, what is the importance of lifelong learning? It brings richness and depth to our lives, our relationships and our world. Lifelong learning is all about opening ourselves up to the unexpected opportunities we have to better ourselves, and it really doesn’t get any better than that.
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