Albert Einstein once quipped “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
With the world rapidly changing, new skill sets are in constant demand. A 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 72% of adults believe that lifelong learning is important for career advancement, and 68% believe that it is important for personal fulfillment. This significant number of adults recognize the importance of lifelong learning and are taking steps to improve their skills. However, there is still a large gap between the number of adults who believe that learning new skills is important and the number of adults who are actually taking steps to learn new skills. This gap could be due to a number of factors, such as lack of time, lack of money, or lack of access to resources.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at the benefits of lifelong learning and the psychology behind it, plus tips that will help you learn skills more effectively.
The Benefits of Lifelong Learning
There are many benefits to learning a new skill and broadening one’s horizons through lifelong learning:
- Career advancement: In today’s rapidly changing world, it is more important than ever to have the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. Lifelong learning can help you to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies in your field, and it can also help you to develop the skills that you need to advance your career.
- Personal fulfillment: Lifelong learning can help you to learn new things, explore new interests, and expand your horizons. It can also help you to stay mentally active and engaged, and it can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Improved brain health: Studies have shown that lifelong learning can help to improve cognitive function, memory, and attention. It can also help to reduce the risk of dementia and other neurological diseases.
- Social connection: Lifelong learning can help you to meet new people, make new friends, and build relationships with others who share your interests. It can also help you to stay connected to your community.
- Civic engagement: Lifelong learning can help you to become a more informed and engaged citizen. It can help you to understand the issues that are important to your community and to participate in the democratic process.
In addition to these benefits, lifelong learning can also help you to:
- Adapt to change: The world is constantly changing, and lifelong learning can help you to adapt to these changes and remain competitive in the job market.
- Solve problems: Lifelong learning can help you to develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that you need to succeed in all areas of your life.
- Make informed decisions: Lifelong learning can help you to gather information, evaluate evidence, and make informed decisions about your life.
- Be more creative: Lifelong learning can help you to develop your creativity and innovation skills.
The Psychology Behind Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning is a complex process that is influenced by a variety of psychological factors. Here are some of the factors to better help you understand what is happening with your mind when you undertake learning as an adult:
Motivation is a key factor in lifelong learning. People are most likely to learn when they are motivated to do so. There are many different types of motivation, including intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and regulatory motivation.
- Intrinsic motivation is the drive to learn for the sake of learning itself. People are intrinsically motivated to learn when they find the learning process to be enjoyable and rewarding.
- Extrinsic motivation is the drive to learn in order to achieve a reward or avoid a punishment. People are extrinsically motivated to learn when they see that learning will lead to something they want, such as a good grade or a promotion.
- Regulatory motivation is the drive to learn in order to maintain a sense of competence and self-efficacy. People are regulatorily motivated to learn when they feel like they can succeed at learning something new.
Cognitive factors also play an important role in lifelong learning. These factors include attention, memory, and problem-solving skills.
- Attention is the ability to focus on a particular task or stimulus. People who are able to pay attention are more likely to learn effectively.
- Memory is the ability to store and retrieve information. People who have good memories are more likely to remember what they have learned.
- Problem-solving skills are the ability to identify and solve problems. People who have good problem-solving skills are more likely to be able to apply what they have learned to new situations.
Emotional factors also play a role in lifelong learning. These factors include self-efficacy, anxiety, and stress.
- Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to succeed at a task. People who have high self-efficacy are more likely to set goals and persist in the face of challenges.
- Anxiety is a feeling of worry or nervousness. People who are anxious may have difficulty learning because they are distracted by their anxiety.
- Stress is a response to a demand or threat. People who are stressed may have difficulty learning because they are overwhelmed by the demands of learning.
Tips for Learning a New Skill Effectively
To help you on your journey to lifelong learning, here are some tips for learning a new skill:
- Set realistic goals. Don’t try to learn everything at once. Break down the skill into smaller, more manageable chunks. For example, if you’re learning to play the guitar, start by learning a few basic chords.
- Find a learning method that works for you. Some people learn best by reading, while others prefer to watch videos or take classes. Experiment with different methods until you find one that you enjoy and that helps you learn effectively.
- Practice regularly. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at the skill. Set aside some time each day to practice, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes when they’re learning something new. Don’t let mistakes discourage you. Just keep practicing and you’ll eventually get better.
- Find a community of learners. Joining a community of learners can help you stay motivated and on track. You can also get feedback from other learners and share tips and resources.
- Celebrate your progress. Take some time to celebrate your accomplishments along the way. This will help you stay motivated and keep moving forward.
- Don’t give up. Learning a new skill takes time and effort. Don’t give up if you find yourself struggling. Just keep practicing and you’ll eventually reach your goals.
The take-home lesson is that life is ever evolving and we need to keep learning to evolve with it. Plus, to keep our minds sharp as we age, we need to engage in new challenges. As an added benefit, you can get great satisfaction from pushing yourself to develop new skills using the tips given above.
Let’s close with a great quote from D.H. Lawrence: “To learn is to grow, and to grow is to live.” What steps will you take to learn something new today?