Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.
Getting an Education is No Longer Enough
We go to school to get an education, and of course what we learn at school helps us to better understand the dynamics of the world we live in. We can then take the lessons learned and get a job that helps us earn a living.
During our schooling years we do a lot of study, research and reading. Some problem solving and creative thinking also come into play, however most of what we learn comes down to memory and recall. We are effectively tested on what we are able to recall and then on how we are able to make sense of that information.
Our schooling years help us understand the fundamentals that allow us to coexist within our society. Furthermore, they help build the foundations of what hopefully becomes a long and successful career in our chosen field of endeavor.
All this is of course well and good. In fact, the education you receive at school provides you with the basic fundamentals that help you create an independent life for yourself within this world. However, to truly thrive and optimize how we live our lives, we need to start setting higher standards for ourselves. Moreover, we all need to start shifting our perspective of what learning truly means.
Back in the day getting an education at a university (college) level was enough for most. A college education pretty much guaranteed that you would secure a great job that would set you up for life.
At school you of course learned about the fundamental principles that society is built upon, i.e. language, mathematics, basic economics and science, etc. Then at a university level you specialized in your chosen area of expertise, which later provided you with greater opportunities to build a successful career for yourself.
Till this day, in some professional fields, i.e. for doctors, lawyers, and accountants, this is still typically an optimal path to follow. However, for almost every other chosen career path there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty on the horizon.
Many graduates today successfully complete their degree but struggle to find a job within their chosen career path because the job market is absolutely saturated. There are just too many people vying for the same jobs. For several years they received a specialized education in this one area, but now with no career opportunities available, they must settle for a basic job that requires only a high school education because they simply don’t have any other skillsets.
These people initially resist these unfortunate and unexpected circumstances, but over time they just settle and acknowledge that it just wasn’t meant to be. They try and make the most of the life they have, fully realizing that every year that goes by their university education becomes more and more irrelevant as each industry and the technology within that industry keeps moving forward. In other words, their college education progressively becomes obsolete, and they have no other choice but to just get on with making a living.
This is sadly a typical scenario that most people fall into. In fact, these days more than ever before this is a scenario that many find themselves in. It’s unfortunate no doubt, but these people have no one to blame but themselves.
You see the problem is that most people see organized and government funded education as being more than enough to set them up for life. After they graduate they just stop learning, and rely on their education to get them through the remainder of their lives. This might have been enough back in the days, but today it falls far short of individual expectations.
Constant and Never-Ending Improvement
The idea of Constant and Never-Ending Improvement (CANI) was first introduced by Anthony Robbins. If effectively means to commit yourself to lifelong learning. In other words, you are committing to improving yourself each and every day of your life in every area of your life, i.e. your health, business, thinking, finances, relationships, career, etc.
No longer is a high school and college education enough, we must now commit ourselves to keep learning, growing and developing ourselves beyond organized education. Only in this way will we provide ourselves with the opportunities required to help us create a successful, happy and fulfilling life for ourselves and for our families.
To commit yourself to CANI means that you are applying yourself to the process of learning, or to be more specific, to the process of putting your learning into perspective and practice.
A commitment to CANI means that you are committed to achieving mastery over your life and emotional wellbeing. This effectively means making small, diligent and continuous daily improvements that can help move your life forward in a positive way.
In order to do this you need to spend time seeking out new information, insights, understandings, knowledge, skills and strategies that can help you get an edge over others who are vying for the same career and business objectives. Furthermore, you need to spend time developing empowering new habits, behaviors and beliefs that support all that you are learning in order to help you put that knowledge into practice.
The key to CANI is to commit yourself to learning things that are relevant to your life and circumstances, that are timeless (evergreen), and that are immediately applicable so that you can progressively move your life forward each and every day. Whether this means reading books within your chosen area of study, taking extra courses, hiring a coach or mentor, etc, it all essentially comes down to making learning and self-education a priority in your life.
When you make lifelong learning a priority this naturally helps enhance your ability to solve problems, to think creatively, critically and flexibly; to enhance the depth and breadth of your knowledge and experience that can help provide you with key insights and opportunities to move your life and career forward.
The more you know and learn, the more you will realize that there is to know and learn. As such, you progressively start building momentum. And as you learn and know more about yourself, about life and about your chosen areas of study, the more earning power you will have and the greater chances for long-term happiness and fulfilment. In fact, the greater quality of life you will live and experience.
A commitment to lifelong learning means that you will no longer accept that a standard education is enough. These days it’s just simply not enough. You need to be constantly learning, growing and developing yourself in order to get an edge over other people who are competing for the same things. Furthermore, you need to commit yourself to this process in order to live an optimal life where everything you desire you can readily create for yourself.
Lifelong learning is essentially about enhancing not only your knowledge and skills, but also your resourcefulness and ability to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. It’s all about life and living. While schools and colleges around the world can provide you with a solid specialized education, lifelong learning provides you with a “life” education. It essentially helps you live your life at more optimal levels so that you can have everything you want and desire in every area of your life.
But of course making this commitment isn’t easy. In fact, it’s not easy for most individuals because many people have a very negative view of education, which is why they can never fathom committing to CANI. And this of course works to your advantage. What they can’t commit to becomes your opportunity. Every day you commit yourself to learning, growing and developing yourself, you add more value to who you are as a person and to what you can offer to the world. In other words, you become more of an asset to yourself, to your family, and to society. And of course with more value offered comes greater reward and compensation for your knowledge, time, effort and skills.
The Laws of Lifelong Learning
When it comes to lifelong learning, there are three fundamental laws that govern this practice and help you to optimize the way you think and live your life. These laws include the Law of Practice, the Law of Knowledge Gathering and the Law of Improvement. Let’s explore each of these laws in a little detail.
The Law of Practice
The Law of Practice states that as you continue to practice and work on developing key skill areas you will subsequently reduce the time required to perform certain tasks, which effectively increases your output and boosts your levels of productivity. In other words, the better you get at performing a certain job, the more of that job you are able to do in a shorter period of time. Likewise, the greater your skill level the higher the quality of work you are able to produce.
This is important for lifelong learning because the greater level of practice you have going through something the higher your level of proficiency, and subsequently the more effective and efficient you are at getting things done, which of course gives you an advantage over others.
The Law of Knowledge Gathering
The Law of Knowledge Gathering states that the more knowledge you gain from your research and experiences the greater level of understanding you have about a specific subject, and subsequently the more insights you can gather about that subject based on existing knowledge and past experience. In other words, the more knowledge you gather about something the easier it is for you to recognize patterns and opportunities that you can use to your advantage.
With more knowledge under your belt comes the ability to know what to do under various conditions and circumstances. This understanding can therefore provide you with relevant ideas and insights that can help you achieve your goals.
The Law of Improvement
The Law of Improvement states that incremental improvements over time will lead to small changes, and of course small changes in combination progressively lead to bigger changes down the line. As such, the small improvements and changes you make today can help you reap long-term rewards and success. This is of course where the Law of Consistency comes into play.
You must consistently commit yourself toward making these improvements over the long haul before you eventually reap long-term rewards and payoffs. Or to put it in the simplest of terms: Your life will only get better when you commit yourself to getting better every day over an extended period of time.
The Mindset of a Lifelong Learner
In order to succeed as a lifelong learner over the long-haul, and in order to truly commit to this process, it’s critical that you cultivate a mindset that is conducive to lifelong learning. In fact, any changes you make must first begin with how you think and perceive the process of learning.
Lifelong learning requires curiosity. It asks that you curiously question things and curiously explore the world around you. It’s a mindset that always desires to know more about something. It longs for new ideas, new challenges and new experiences. It longs for these things because its purpose is to learn, grow and develop progressively and incrementally over time. As such, it’s eager to know more about things and to become a better version of itself than it was the day before.
The mindset of a lifelong learner is always open to possibilities and isn’t quick to jump to conclusions or make assumptions. It understands that the world is full of possibilities, and that the only way to reach its full potential is to be open to anything and willing to explore everything.
The mindset of a lifelong learner also comes from a place of gratitude. Nothing is ever taken for granted no matter how small or insignificant. Every piece of information gathered, every small skill learned, and every ounce of knowledge gained is appreciated and respected. It’s appreciated and respected because a lifelong learner knowingly understands that little things fuse together over time to create big things that can drastically transform their life and/or perspective of life.
Important Skills to Develop
The skills you choose to develop as a lifelong learner will of course entirely depend on the goals and objectives you have in mind for your life, health, relationships and career. However, there are certain skills that are worth developing that can actually help you become a more effective lifelong learner.
The Management of Information
As a lifelong learner you will come across a copious amount of information as you undertake the process of learning. This information needs to be captured and organized in an effective way so that you can best make sense of it and later potentially use it in an optimal way. Given this, you need a process for effectively managing the information you come across.
How you manage this information will depend on your preferences of how you think and how you would like to work. Technology can however be a great ally. Today there are an abundant array of apps and software tools that can help you to manage information more effectively. Personally, I’ve used mind mapping software as my tool of choice, but for you that may vary.
No matter what apps and tools you use, it’s important that they are congruent with how you think and work throughout the day.
Accelerated Learning Skills
I’ve written numerous articles on how to become a more effective learner. For instance I’ve written about Accelerated Reading, about the Seven Intelligences, about how to use Multi-Sensory Learning, and how to Improve Memory, and how to Study More Effectively.
All the ideas shared within these articles will help you to accelerate your ability to learn, remember and make sense of the information you are learning. This all effectively comes down to a rapid integration of information. The more quickly you are able to capture and make sense of the information you are learning, the easier it will be for you to apply those lessons into your life.
Measuring of Progress
In order to excel as a lifelong learner you must know your outcome, but even more so you must develop a system for measuring the progress you are making.
Having a system in place for measuring your progress is important as it allows you to track how things are going, where you are making headway, and potentially where you are struggling.
I’m of course not just referring to the rote learning process here. I am instead referring to the knowledge and insights you gain from experience as you work to attain certain goals and objectives.
The process of lifelong learning isn’t just about sticking your head into a copious amount of books and religiously collecting this information. Lifelong learning is all about taking that information you have collected and putting it into practice in real life. It’s then of course about making mistakes and learning from that experience in order to make course corrections. Lifelong learning therefore moves from theory into practice, then into self-reflection. It then comes full circle back again to theory (the collection of knowledge and information), then into practice and back to self-reflection that comes from experience.
Given this, in order to become a more effective lifelong learner you must create a method for measuring the progress you are making that is aligned with this process. In other words, you must effectively measure what results you are gaining from the learnings you are putting into practice, and whether or not they are getting you closer to your desired goals or pulling you away.
How exactly you measure these results will come down to your personal preferences and goals. Technology is of course another great ally here that you can use to track where you spend your time and how much progress you are making toward a goal.
Above all else, you must be very clear about what it is you want to achieve. Without understanding what your desired outcomes are, it’s going to be very difficult for you to keep track of anything of concrete value. To help you in that regard, please have a read of The GROW Model.
The Indispensable Skills
There are three indispensable skills that everyone should focus on mastering no matter what their field of endeavor or area of focus. These skills come in the form of speaking, writing and reading.
People who are able to speak well and persuade others through the use of verbal language have a superior advantage within any industry or field of expertise. The same principle also applies to writing. When you are able to write effectively you can influence people through your written words in remarkable ways.
Of course, your ability to read quickly while capturing the essence of what you’re reading most effectively is the third indispensable skill required for effective learning. All three skill areas are important because they help support you through the process of lifelong learning as you work toward achieving your goals.
Becoming a Lifelong Learner
In order to become a lifelong learner you must of course commit yourself toward making incremental improvements over the long-haul within key areas of your life. In order to do this you must regularly listen to relevant podcasts and/or audio books or programs. You must commit yourself to reading books and topic related blogs, to attend workshops, seminars and to undertake professional courses that help expand your skills and understanding of certain key subject areas.
All the above things are of course no-brainers when it comes to lifelong learning. However, there are a few other things that lifelong learners regularly do that are not so obvious.
Consistently Exercising the Brain
Lifelong learners spend time exercising their brain. Just like the body requires exercise to stay fit and healthy, so to does the brain. As such, lifelong learners take time throughout the week to solve problems, to think critically and creatively about various topics and subjects they are learning. For them this isn’t about just reading and recalling information. They motivate themselves to think critically about what they are learning; to question everything, and then to creatively expand these ideas to help them solve real life problems they are dealing with far more effectively. That is in essence what lifelong learning is all about.
The Importance of Self-Reflection
Lifelong learning is also about self-reflection; it’s about taking the time to objectively examine your day and life and then to make sense of that information in order to gather relevant insights that can help move your life forward in a better and more optimal way. And this of course can be achieved through the daily practice of journaling or through the act of meditation or visualization.
Enhancing Your Vocabulary
One other area that’s typically overlooked as being relevant for lifelong learning comes down to your vocabulary or to the language you use. Lifelong learners often work on enhancing their personal vocabulary. They do this because the more words they know and understand the easier it is for them to learn things rapidly. Moreover, a richer vocabulary helps them more readily make connections and gather insights about various concepts and ideas they encounter.
Having access to a richer vocabulary also allows lifelong learners to dig deeper into topics, concepts and ideas that they come across. This helps them to better understand the breadth and scope of a topic, and they can therefore assess the information they are learning more thoroughly, which of course leads to deeper level conclusions and understandings.
Lifelong Learning in Practice
Lifelong learning is a practice, in fact it must be practiced consistently over an extended period of time if you are to derive value from this process. But how do we practice it? How do we make it a part of our daily lives, or a part of our daily routine?
It all of course comes back to self-reflection. Self-reflection is what distinguishes a lifelong learner from an “information junkie” who religiously collects information without putting it into practice.
Yes, a lifelong learner collects, collates and organized information, but they then also reflect on this information, put it into practice, and then reflect once again in order to make the necessary adjustments moving forward to help them achieve their goals.
Self-reflection is something that can be practiced at the start or toward the end of your day. Typically it’s best scheduled at the end of your day so that you can think and reflect on the day’s events.
During this period of reflection it’s important to think about how the day transpired, what exactly happened, how you responded to people and/or events, and what you can learn from your experiences, failures and mistakes.
Your objective throughout the self-reflection process is to objectively assess your experiences based on your current level knowledge and skill. It’s then up to you to use any insights you gather from this in order to build an action plan to help you put your new found knowledge into practice.
Upon reflecting on your day you might have for instance realized that you responded negatively to a person or event. This period of self-reflection gives you an opportunity to respond anew, thereby building a new patterned response that can help you respond to future events of this nature in a more proactive, helpful and optimal way. To help you with this thought process, spend some time at the end of your day asking yourself the following set of questions:
What specifically did I make a conscious effort to learn today?
What valuable knowledge did I gain from these learnings?
How can I potentially put this knowledge into practice in the coming days and weeks?
What exactly happened today? What specific events transpired?
What progress, or lack of progress did I make toward my goals?
How specifically have I contributed today? What have I learned from this experience?
How did I put existing knowledge into practice today?
What potential mistakes or errors in thinking did I make?
How did I respond to events, people and circumstances?
How else could I have potentially responded?
What have I learned about myself, others and circumstances based on all these experiences?
How have these lessons changed me as a person, or at least changed how I perceive the world around me?
How have I grown, developed and improved as a person over the course of the day?
How can I replicate the successes I have had today to continue improving into tomorrow?
How can I improve on everything in order to grow into a better person tomorrow?
These are of course only examples of potential questions you can ask yourself during your period of self-reflection. The questions you choose for your self-reflection time are completely up to you. The key is to ask questions that help you gather critical insights from your experiences in order to help you make improvements the following day.
In the end, in order to become an effective lifelong learner, your self-reflection time must support your daily learning experiences that you gather from your readings, from your observations, from modeling other people’s behavior, and from the errors of your ways.
In combination the act of daily self-reflection and the learning experiences you gather throughout the day will help you to begin putting your knowledge into practice to help you optimize the way you live your life. And that in itself is what makes lifelong learning such an important and critical part of living.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 3 Ways to Embrace Lifelong Learning @ Huffington Post
- 5 Ways to Keep Learning and Save Your Career @ Inc.
- How to Become Good at Lifelong Learning @ WikiHow
- How to Inspire Creativity and Lifelong Learning @ LinkedIn
- Importance of Lifelong Learning and Continuous Education @ Brian Tracy
- Lifelong Learning: An Essential Ingredient for Entrepreneurs @ Huffington Post
- Lifelong Learning is the Key to Competitiveness @ Huffington Post
- Lifelong Learning is the Secret to Happiness in Old Age @ The Guardian
- Lifelong Learning Starts Before Preschool @ Psychology Today
- Lifelong Learning: Why do we need it? @ Research Gate
- The Importance of Lifelong Learning @ Pick the Brain
- Top 10 Benefits of Lifelong Learning @ Self-Growth
- Why 2016 Should be the Year of Lifelong Learning @ LinkedIn
- Why Learning Leads to Happiness @ Huffington Post
- Why You Should Strive for Lifelong Learning @ Entrepreneur