The universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old. An average human lives for 79-80 years. Compared to the universe’s age, our age is equal to just another infinitesimally small grain among the countless sand grains in the hourglass. Limiting the time we spend on learning to the time spent in school and college is literally nothing compared to what is out there to learn. The knowledge out there that is waiting to be discovered and gained is so much that even hundreds of lifetimes might not be enough, let alone one. The least we could do is dedicate the one life that we have and become lifelong learners.
What Does It Mean to Be a Lifelong Learner?
Before reflecting upon what it means to be a lifelong learner, we need to first answer the following question: What is lifelong learning?
Going by the dictionary definition, it is the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment. In simpler words, all it means is to keep learning new things throughout your life that will help you in achieving your goals and your overall development.
Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.
Once you understand what lifelong learning means, you can easily figure out what it means to be a lifelong learner. But what does it really take to be one?
An article by Mission to Learn says that to become a true lifelong learner it is a must incorporate five habits namely consciousness, faith, engagement, reflection, and humility. Lifelong learners always have their eyes open; they are always looking for something new to learn. They are always curious; and whatever they learn, they learn it actively by engaging with the world. They take out time to reflect upon what they learnt, how it will help them grow and help better the world. And most important of all, they never let the knowledge go to their head; they are always humble. They know that no matter how much they seek, there will always be mysteries that will remain unsolved and discoveries that they won’t be able to make.
Why Is It Important?
A lot of important figures throughout history have practised and emphasised on the importance of adopting lifelong learning and its benefits. Brian Tracy, a Canadian-American motivational public speaker, and self-development author, rightly says:
Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.
This brings us to the first reason why lifelong learning is extremely important: the development of your mind. Research shows adopting lifelong learning has positive effects on brain cells and improves mental sharpness. Better mental health leads to longer life expectancy.
Then comes passion, self-development, and feeling of satisfaction. No matter how strong or powerful we become, we are humans afterall. Even to become strong and powerful in the first place, we need to keep on learning new things. The added benefit of this habit is the feeling of doing something worthwhile while you’re alive. Also, time spent learning is never a waste. Whatever knowledge you gain will help you in one way or another sometime in the future, distant, if not near.
Another important reason which kind of doesn’t leave us without any option but building lifelong learning skills is the forever progressing world that we live in. The age through the world is going is the Digita Age. Everything is rapidly shifting towards computers, robots, and latest technologies which themselves are coming up every now and then; in short, everything is shifting towards STEM. Looking at the pace with which it is advancing, it has become imperative to adopt lifelong learning now more than ever before; and the earlier one develops this habit, the better. Not only would it help in being at par with everything, but also open doors to a plethora of opportunities and a forever-growing career.
And if none of these, one thing for which lifelong learning sure is beneficial is killing boredom! Once you develop the habit learning new things every now and then, you can never get bored; there is always going to be something or the other out there for you to discover and know more about.
The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
How to Help Your Child Become a Lifelong Learner
Today’s generation is going to decide what the future will be like. Whether it will make it or break it depends solely on what it does today. To ensure that it helps in improving it and taking it to newer heights it has become absolutely necessary to incorporate STEM into their lives, that too from a very early age. Once introduced, the next step facing us is encouraging them to delve deeper into it, pursue it, and stick to it; this is possible if we encourage them to become lifelong learners.
The first thing to do is, well, encourage them! Tell them why adopting lifelong learning is going to be beneficial for them and how is it going to help them in every phase of their life. Once they understand its importance and are ready to develop the habit, guide them and help them in developing the habit. Ask them to dedicate time for conscious learning, to use scraps of time, where they don’t know what to do, to do something productive. Take them to libraries, seminars, workshops, educational fairs, and other places where they would find an abundance of knowledge.
Nowadays, knowledge is available at the tip of our fingertips, courtesy of the Internet. There are a plethora of options to choose from which are out there to share their knowledge with us. There is YouTube which provides tons of information about every kind of topic that you can imagine, and there are resources like TED, Coursera, and edX which offer a wide range of interactive lectures, and online courses, many of them for free.
And finally, repeat, repeat, and repeat. As important it is to be aware of the need and benefits of adopting lifelong learning, equally important is to maintain the habit. The best way to help your children become a dedicated lifelong learner is to learn with them! Children don’t always readily do as they told; they do what they see. And when you learn together, the process will not only become easier but also extremely enjoyable.
In a Nutshell
The world today is completely different from what it used to be. It has a lot to offer but it depends on us how we take it. And looking at where it’s headed, adopting the habit of lifelong learning seems imperative.
However hard and daunting it might look at first, becoming a lifelong learner or encouraging someone to become one isn’t that difficult; all it needs is a sincere and determined push at the start, perseverance, and dedication. And once it develops into a habit, it then becomes impossible to let go of it ever. And for all this world has given us, dedicating our life to becoming a lifelong learner is the least we could do.