All of us play different roles. We carry different titles with our names, e.g., doctor, engineer, professor, entrepreneur, administrator, etc. Even though we carry different titles, there is one title which is common to all of us, i.e., all of us are students. Before any other title, the one that should go along with our name is ‘student’.
If life is a journey, we are students in the journey of life. A wise man once said: “Never stop learning because life never stops teaching”
Former US President, Bill Clinton speaking to the audience at the Global Education and Skills Forum in 2014 said, “The most important thing I have learnt is that there is more to learn. We should all be hungry for a lifetime.” The hunger Clinton referring to here is the hunger for more knowledge and more learning.
WHY IS LIFELONG LEARNING IMPORATNT?
The World is changing.
We have to remember that the whole world is changing. New technologies, new innovations have touched all aspects of our lives. No matter, whichever profession we belong to, we are not immune to these changes. Some of the changes happening today are described as ‘disruptive’. These changes are exerting pressure on organizations and individuals to continually build new capabilities. We need to keep learning, if we want to stay ahead of the curve. Knowledge gives us an edge over others in this competitive and ever-changing world.
Human lifespan is increasing.
Human beings’ life span is increasing. For last few decades, the human lifespan is increasing continuously. An increased life span means, we now have more years to live than our previous generations and hence more time to learn.
Most people make multiple career moves.
Some research findings state that only 40% of people take up a profession for which they study. The rest take up a profession which is unrelated to their educational qualification. It doesn’t stop there. Many people make 5 or 6 career moves in their life. Every time, one makes a career move, it warrants the need for new learning.
Our Brain needs to remain active throughout our life
Brain is the most important organ of our body. It allows us to think, feel and store memories and it controls and coordinates our body’s actions and reactions. It is the organ that makes us who we are. However, our brain starts to decline in our 40’s. So how do we keep our brain alive and active as we start ageing? Well, we can do that by learning something new every now and then. We keep our body muscles strong through different work-outs like stretching etc. Likewise, we need to keep our brain active through different work-outs, like learning something new, doing something creative, solving problems innovatively etc.
Learning is like breathing. A man is dead, if he stops learning.
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A LIFE-LONG LEARNER?
- Self-motivation- A learner has to be self-motivated to learn, even if sometimes she does not see any immediate returns. It requires a strong desire to commit time and effort to learn, especially when you have a busy schedule.
- Curiosity and Inquisitiveness. Curiosity is the mother of all learning. If you have intense curiosity or irresistible inquisitiveness, it’s half the job done. Learning will become a way of life.
- Reflection- Another important ingredient in this mix is reflection. Learning is maximized when the learner gets an opportunity to reflect on her experience as part of the learning process. It deepens understanding and enhances learning.
- Application- Look for opportunities to apply what you are learning. You should also receive feedback on your performance during the action learning process.
- Imagination- Use the power of imagination to make learning more effective. Scientific research suggests that thinking about something over and over again could actually be as good as doing it.
- Sharing- Learners retain 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else. So go ahead and share your learnings with others. Sharing can include writing an article or blog as well which others can read.
WHAT SHOULD WE START DOING FROM TOMORROW?
You can start doing all or some of the following right away.
Read for 30 Minutes a day. Reading books is a great source of learning. Reading gives us many perspectives and helps us look at a subject from different angles. If you find books too lengthy and don’t have the patience to read them, pick up a whitepaper, an article or blog and read them.
Listen to Audio CDs or watch videos- Today in the digital age, you have access to a wide-range of learning solutions including Audio CDs, Videos, CBTs, e-learning courses etc. Now these resources are available on the mobile phones as well. Start leveraging the power of digital technology to enhance your learning.
Participate in Seminars, Conferences- Attending seminars and conferences regularly can be a great way to enhance your learning. It is a great way to meet people from the same fraternity or domain and learn from their best practices. Being in a conference means gaining a great exposure to the external world.
Join a Community of Practice- You may consider joining a Community of Practice (CoP) in a subject area or domain you may be interested in. CoPs can be a great source of learning. Many organizations have internal CoPs. For example, an organization may have one CoP for their software developers and another for their front-line supervisors. There are also external industry forums/associations for practitioners in different fields.
Participate in a professional course- Enroll for a professional course which will help you acquire a new body of knowledge. Besides providing you an additional qualification, it also enhances your career prospects. It may also come handy at the time of a new career move.
Learning runs through our lives. The stronger it is, the better, healthier and happier we are. Mahatma Gandhi says: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Life is meaningless without learning because we all areborn to learn! !