The act of learning isn’t something that needs to end after you finish your formal education – it can serve as an important part of your life long after you’ve graduated, begun your career, and left the world of final exams and thesis papers behind. Learning new things enriches your life, keeps your brain active, and exposes you to new ideas, too.
Many of us, however, especially those subjected to intense or demanding academic programs, don’t quite understand what learning is in the absence of tests or assigned reading. The pressure of many academic programs has also left many of us with bad tastes in our mouths – we associate the act of learning with stress, so when we’re done school, we’re often done with learning, too.
Leisure time is important, it’s essential for the brain and the body to relax. But learning is equally important. Today we’ll discuss why lifelong learning is so crucial to your mental wellbeing, and how to bring it into your life.
Lifelong learning is exactly what it sounds like – seeking out and participating in the act of learning during your entire life.
The Commission of the European Communities further explains that lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal or professional reasons…it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability”.
At its core, lifelong learning comes down to being interested and interesting. It means retaining your sense of curiosity about how the world works, stoking your sense of adventurousness enough to try something new, and investing in yourself as a person – to the benefit of your mind, body, relationships, and career.
What Qualifies as Lifelong Learning?
This is the best part! Literally anything that involves challenging your brain, acquiring new skills, or improving yourself can count as lifelong learning. It can be taking on a new sport, reading a new genre of books, picking up a new hobby or even trying a musical instrument. It can be studying a new language, taking a pottery class, getting certified as a lifeguard or earning a new certification in your field.
When you’re challenging yourself, you’re learning.
A word of caution, however. Learning doesn’t have to be productive. The two don’t always go hand in hand. There may never be a practical use for the Spanish you pick up in your weekly class, you may never want to sell the paintings you work on. There doesn’t have to be a “payoff”, figuratively or literally, to the things you learn. Give yourself permission to follow your interests, regardless of whether or not they are ”useful”.
So read the book. Watch the documentary. Go bird watching. Stretch the limits of your too-comfortable life and strive to learn at least one new thing every day. You’ll be so glad you did!