Lately I’ve been thinking about the notion of lifelong learning. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the tail-end of a digital communications course at the University of Toronto that is stretching me in new ways. (This blog is a product of the course!)
The Collins English Dictionary defines lifelong learning as, “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 fulfilment.”
I really like this definition because it says that learning can take place anywhere and at any time in our lives. It’s not reserved solely for formal school settings. To quote American novelist Mark Twain, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
Lifelong learning provides amazing benefits.
In our working years, learning is often focused on acquiring skills and knowledge to advance our careers. Whether through courses, workshops, conferences, reading and more, we can derive an economic benefit from our learning. It can help us land a new job, switch careers, or simply grow in our current work.
Lifelong learning can also keep us healthier, longer.
There’s a growing body of evidence that stimulating and challenging our brain can help us maintain cognitive functions such as memory, decision making, attention and problem solving. Mental stimulation, along with exercise and healthy eating may be the key to a long and productive life.
There are distinct social and societal benefits to lifelong learning as well. By exploring new activities, taking up new hobbies (or rediscovering old ones), undertaking educational travel, and the like, we connect with others, make new friends, and maintain healthy relationships. Through volunteering, we can offer the knowledge and expertise gained through a lifetime of learning to contribute to our community. And because our world is in a constant state of flux, lifelong learning helps us adapt to change too.
It’s important to remember, however, that lifelong learning is both a deliberate and voluntary act. We have to embrace it as a way of life, intentionally and actively seeking out opportunities to learn and stretch.
What are some of the ways you are embracing lifelong learning?