“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young,” or so says Henry Ford. Yes, the guy who invented that car. Humanity has been on a quest for the fountain of youth for eternity. We thought we found it via super toxin botox, but perhaps the answer to staying young is far more simple. The answer is lifelong learning. Keep reading to find out how you can make learning a part of your day to day life. 

What is Lifelong Learning? 

Lifelong learning is the process of continually bettering yourself by initiating the gaining knowledge for the rest of your life. Learning can happen on your couch, in the bathtub, in a classroom, or while walking your dogs. It isn’t necessarily happening in a classroom setting, but it could be thanks to eLearning innovations. 

Lifelong Learning in Bullet Points: 

  • Self-motivated: that internal force that makes some people decide to run a marathon or climb Everest.
  • It can cost absolutely zilch. 
  • Informal: videos, Ted talks, reading articles, coaching sessions, and games all count. 
  • Self-taught.
  • Personal interest or personal development focused. 

Develop a Lifelong Learning Mindset

There is a myth that continuing to learn until late in life can delay dementia, which does not have much-supporting evidence. However, that does not mean that being a lifelong learner doesn’t set you up for a more interesting life. People committed to keeping up learning are less likely to become bored and more likely to continue living spontaneous, satisfying lives. 

Lifelong Learning and the Growth Mindset

People believe that a naturally high IQ sets you up to become great at something, but it is, in fact, the effort we put into getting better at something that makes us better at it. Being open to new ideas, what psychologists call a growth mindset, is more likely to make you successful. 

Carol Dweck looks at two different mindsets. Which one do you think is more likely to be a lifelong learner? 

Fixed Mindset

must prove itself again and again. Their main goal is to confirm that they are intelligent enough. In this mindset, you cannot improve upon your starting point.

Growth Mindset

all about believing that your potential is unknown and the only way to discover it is to continue going forward. There is a desire to learn rather than a desire for approval.

All of the above may sound like your typical “reach for the moon, and you will land among the stars” platitudes that you’d find in a suburban kitchen, but in this case, it is based on years of research on developmental psychology. You can also use this research to help your children become lifelong learners. When praising kids, it is important to praise their attempts at learning. Ensure they know that there are no dumb questions and that it’s okay to ask for help. 

6 Small Steps to a Growth Mindset

  1. Realize that there is no need to be perfect. Striving for perfection keeps you on the safe side, shying away from new experiences and learning. 
  2. See opportunities instead of challenges.
  3. Look at new learning styles. A traditional classroom may not be for you, but immersive learning created by the edTech world may be more suited to you. 
  4. Think, “I’m learning something new,” instead of, “I’m bad at this.”
  5. Try failing on purpose. Whenever I get stuck on learning a new skill and get frustrated, I try to do it badly to engage my creativity. 
  6. Don’t try to impress other people. Easier said than done, but there is so much in life we do for others. When it comes to learning, think of what truly makes your heart beat faster and go after discovering that. 

edTech and Lifelong Learning

There is no question about it; the invention of the internet has given us more lifelong learning opportunities than we could ever imagine. Every time we excitedly read parts of a Wikipedia article out to our spouse, we are engaged in the process of learning something new, even if that new thing is an in-depth analysis of Jack the Ripper. 

Educational technology allows learners to formalize their lifelong learning if desired. However, their learning needs differ from younger learners. These needs are often better supported in an eLearning setting. For example:

  • Most lifelong adult learners have jobs and families, which means they have more limited time to dedicate to formalized learning. Thankfully eLearning allows for a more flexible approach to learning that can be fit into free-time, whether that is at 2 am when the baby is sleeping or while working out on the treadmill. 
  • Lifelong learners require more bang for their buck. Shorter returns on investment-oriented courses allow them greater opportunity for switching careers. 
  • The new learning model no longer has a “period of education” followed by a “period of working”; instead, education and work and interspersed together for the rest of people’s lives. 

Are There Downsides to Being a Lifelong Learner?

Most of this article has obviously been pro-life-long learning, which may be due to some bias on my part. Can you blame me? Here are a couple of possible downsides:

  • Not finding real-world applications for your learning can be frustrating.
  • Information overwhelm can lead to burning out. It’s important to take the time to self-care and occasionally switch on an episode of Friends rather than a hard-hitting political documentary. 
  • Sometimes you will get frustrated when not understanding something, no matter how much you try to focus on the journey, not the outcome. 

Conclusion

Cultivating a growth mindset to further your lifelong learning is the first step to creating a fulfilling life. Whether you choose to better yourself through some formal eLearning or binge-watching TedTalks, learning is the pursuit of happiness. I hope you enjoy your newfound knowledge. 

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