Become A Lifelong Learner
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Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States in the early 1900s, was considered a lifelong learner. He published his first book at 23 and continued to write – and read – throughout his life. He was rumoured to have read a book a day! Learning provided both personal enjoyment and a path to professional success for him.
Ongoing skills acquisition is critical for continued professional relevance, especially in a modern world of exploding technology. Formal education levels are regularly linked to higher earnings and lower unemployment – and learning something new (more informally) is also fun.
A recent article in The Economist highlights some of the realities of the modern workplace:
- Established skills become obsolete, making it essential to acquire new skills.
- Career spans are lengthening.
- Automation may not wipe out jobs completely but it does force change in many occupations.
- A growing number of people are self-employed.
Simply deciding to ‘continue learning’ may not be enough though; you may need to cultivate it as a new habit. Start off by specifying the outcomes that you would like to achieve. Is it about mastering a specific subject? Being up-to-date on a couple of topics outside your day-to-day work? Select one or two outcomes that will help you to set achievable goals to make the habit stick.
Secondly, set (realistic) goals. You can track long-term goals in a planner and use any number of apps to monitor your short-term goals – thus making sure that you turn a vague desire to improve learning into concrete actions. Then it's time to execute: join groups, read, start a formal education course. Get rid of distractions and interruptions – and FOCUS.
Finally, use appropriate technology to complement your learning efforts: Podcasts, eBooks and audio books, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are all freely available. Technology is enabling entirely new ways of learning: Accessing content on different (and mobile) devices, on the move, or at the point of need – 'self-paced' and 'self-service' options make lifelong learning even more achievable.
Humans are born with a natural curiosity. We do want to learn but life’s demands often eat up our time and our will to engage this natural curiosity. Developing lifelong learning habits can be a route to both continued professional relevance and deep personal happiness for you as well!