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“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school” – T. D. Jakes
Eat healthy. Regular exercise. Live mindfully. Sound easy but our struggles are real. We know what’s good for us but they don’t always translate into actions.
The same goes for learning. Many of us think that learning is confined to the four walls of a classroom but that is far from the truth. Both formal and informal education – whether it’s from lectures, volunteer work or engaging in a debate open ourselves up to different world views, values and idiosyncrasies. We often think that the moment we step out and graduate from school or university, learning screeches to a halt. And that’s a recipe for a life of mediocrity because the moment we stop learning, life starts going downhill.
Beyond the benefits of continuous learning for professional advancement, learning keeps us interesting and relevant in our rapidly changing world. Remember the time when we met someone new and realised how unexciting the person was? Banal remarks and trivial topics such as ‘what do you do’ or new age gobbledygook dominate the conversation – definitely a surefire way to send anyone to snore-ville.
To be engaging and interesting, whether it’s at work or in our personal lives, we should not let our curiosity wane but continue to expand our knowledge, generate new ideas and adapt to new technologies or ideologies. To quote Henry Ford “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young”.
Four reasons why we should make learning a priority:
It teaches us to be adaptable and flexible
Human beings are natural learners. Whether you are a noob in the kitchen learning how to bake or an average proletariat taking a night class for professional enrichment, we are capable of taking chances, shattering old beliefs and patterns, perfecting our skills, discovering new ideas and contributing to society. Adaptable people are open to change and grok every opportunity. After all, it is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable.
It is imperative for our health and wallet too
According to a journal article by Annals of Neurology , learning a new language will delay the onset of dementia. Lifelong learning keeps the mind sharp and vibrant and increases our sense of self-worth, which leads to a longer and healthier life. Given the increasing rate of medical cost today, the healthier we are, the less we need to visit a doctor which translates to better financial health for our family. Besides, a healthy workforce influences employee morale and engagement, which increases productivity and lowers turnover rates. And the benefits go beyond the ‘soft’ results – essentially, a healthy workforce will boost your business bottom line.
It enhances our self-confidence
Sure, learning promotes economic prosperity but more than that the more knowledge we acquire, the more confident we become – such as when preparing for a work presentation or simply running a blog. For instance, if we are armed with knowledge, we trust in our ability to do what we believe is right despite facing opposition from others as well as determining our risk aversion in making major decisions. So go ahead and sign up for that masterclass to boost your self-confidence.
It allows us to acquire practical life skills
Forget old-fashioned education and and hello self-directed learning. Today, YouTube may be a social platform but it is an incredibly amazing resource for those lacking time or financial means to enrol in formal education. There are countless things we can learn from YouTube – from technology, DIY tutorials to every conceivable subject. And for ambitious YouTube content creators, it’s not impossible to turn their passion into a lucrative source of income.
Where Do We Start?
Lao Tzu says “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and the first step is often the hardest. There is no end to learning and the greatest catalyst to continuous learning is making it fun. So how about we start by engaging in an exciting and enjoyable endeavour? Learn a new recipe. Learn how to fly a kite. Once in a while, go somewhere new – it could be exploring a new city to discover unique sights and cultures. After all, life is a book. Those who do not travel only read one page.
Or if you’re crazy enough, sign up for an adventure. Running my first marathon (that’s 42.195 km long!) was brutal but it taught me a crucial life lesson – that we are more capable than we think we are. I learnt that pushing my body to extreme limits coupled with grit and tenacity allow me to accomplish any goals in life. Be bold, learn to step out of comfort zone and push boundaries. Learning can be an adventure – it’s a state of mind!
Continuous learning is an indispensable tool for every employee and organisation. Be generous and learn by teaching someone – whether it’s a work colleague or marginalised community in your neighbourhood. The protégé effect demonstrates that teaching, getting ready to teach or pretending to teach information to others is the best way to learn because it increases our metacognitive processing thus enhancing our own ability to learn the material. As it turns out, generosity is not only powerful but good for us too.
We don’t need to quit our jobs to pursue higher education. Or have deep pockets to expand our horizon daily. Start small. Spend ten minutes to read a book, hone our time management skills, learn to disagree constructively and if all else fails, knowledge is just a mouse-click or tap away on our modern devices. Ultimately, our insatiable yearning to learn helps us to develop resilience, an ineffable character strength that will determine how we cope with adversity in life.