I shared Ames' story in the last post.
Ames demonstrated what lifelong learning is all about, her way. She lived for 100 years and her learning lived along with her.
What exactly is lifelong learning?
If I may put it simply, lifelong learning is a process of keeping our minds and body engaged, regardless of our age, by actively and voluntarily pursuing knowledge and experience.
Most of us are well-accustomed to classroom learning, thanks to the conventional education system here and everywhere else. Once we are done with structured learning, many of us are not entirely sure how we should carry on with learning.
I have yet to come across someone who would argue with me on the importance of lifelong learning. However, most would lament that it is not easy and many admit that they fail miserably.
The all-time favorite "I have no time" reason (or excuse) would, more often than not, be the cause of failure. So they say.
We live in a very busy world but that does not mean that lifelong learning needs to be disrupted in the midst of our bee-like lifestyle. There are ways to do it and here are some which I have personally found them to be useful:
1. Make a commitment
Lifelong learning is a commitment but it need not be an onerous one.
Enter into a simple contract with yourself. Come to an agreement that you want lifelong learning and that it can be an enjoyable process.
Make it a habit. Make it a priority.
2. Make a "To Learn List"
You are familiar with "To Do List". Now, make a similar one for learning as well.
Do not take the list as a mandate. Otherwise, you are just going to add undue pressure and thus making learning a chore. The list is just a convenient reference to what you might want to learn from time to time.
Feel free to edit it.
3. Bring a book with you
Carry a reading material with you all the time and you can read whenever you have sometime (instead of spending void time fiddling with your mobile phone).
In this digital age, you can also consider bringing e-books with you in your fanciful gadgets.
What type of books to read? Simple - anything that helps you learn something.
4. Choose your friends
You don't have to ditch your existing friends. All you need to do is to spend more time with those who are intellectual.
Intellectual people have the necessary habits to make learning their way of life. Their habits can be contagious if you go close enough.
5. Be curious
Be curious but not greedily curious.
There are so many things you can learn. Being curious helps but being curious in every other thing at the same time will only distract and confuse you.
Curiosity is the propeller to knowledge acquisition. Have a habit of asking questions on things that got you curious. Find possible answers one way or the other.
6. Think and reflect
You may not realize it but everyday, you are exposed to something new.
Make it a point to think through the ideas you have collected in the day. Journaling and meditating are just some ways to do it.
7. Practice makes perfect
You can read just a few pages of a book and learn much or read a few books and learn nothing.
The difference between the two usually lies with practice. Do consider volunteering yourself for tasks which can let you practise what you are learning. Always apply what you have learned and put it into practice.
8. Be a teacher
As ironical as it may sound, you learn more when you teach.
Teaching requires preparation of facts, crystallization of ideas and examination of assumptions. In doing so, you gather new wisdoms and strengthen existing ones.
Be a mentor to someone or simply share ideas with a friend.
"To teach is to learn twice." ~Joseph Joubert.
9. Refresh your resources
Do you often visit bookmarked websites, browse regular sections of the library or tune to the same few TV channels?
Well, if you do that long enough, you might find yourselves taking in similar information overtime and suffer from 'diminishing return' in learning.
Be adventurous. Refresh your learning resources from time to time. You may discover new areas of learning which will reignite your enthusiasm for lifelong learning.
10. Go back to school
Not literally though.
You can compliment your learning by joining workshops or short courses. You stand to benefit from the power of group learning. Who knows, you might just meet new people whom you can add on to your pool of intellectual friends.
11. Turn your workplace into a classroom
Your job can be stifling if you make it so.
Look beyond your routine and grab every other learning opportunities around your workplace. More often than not, they are just lying around, waiting to be picked up by you.
For the same thing, winners see learning opportunities but others see problems.
12. Learn something from anyone
Everyone knows something.
Very often, we are the ignorant ones who assume that we cannot reap any knowledge from a person. The question I pose is "What can I learn from him?" and not, "Is there anything to learn from him?"
This quote by Galileo Galilei says it all, "I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him."
13. Follow your heart
It is important that you make lifelong learning fun.
Unlike structured learning, no one will tell you what and how you should learn in your lifelong learning. You have to design the learning content and pace. You have to find your own conducive classrooms and inspiring teachers. You define lifelong learning, your way.
If you still think setting hard targets is important, do so but be careful not to become your own killjoy.
Be spontaneous. Be fluid.
14. Take it bite-size
Don't be greedy, you will choke.
Learning in tiny bits does not mean that you are not ambitious. The test is not on how much you put in your mouth. Rather, it is how much you can digest.
Go back to your "To Learn List" (see point 2) and decide what would be the 'flavor of the month'.
Anything in excess will just ooze out of your body.
15. The must-have goal
Setting targets for lifelong learning is good so long as you go easy on it. However, there is just one goal which you cannot afford to miss:
"Learn something everyday for the rest of the days."
16. Learn to celebrate
Let's face it, we need encouragement.
The problem is, we do not always have an encouraging someone next to us whenever we need it most. The solution is simple: Always turn to the person who is with you all the time. This person is none other than YOU!
Focus on your achievement rather than unaccomplished tasks. Learn to recognize your own good deed, no matter how small it may seem.
These are some of the things I do to make lifelong learning practical and enjoyable. You can devise your own too.
Remember: Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can - there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.
Happy lifelong learning.
You might also want to read:
You Look But You Don't See?
Listen! It's Been A Year!
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever."