The practice of lifelong learning is an instinctual adaptation to the increasing threat of obsolescence. Technology, globalisation and business management are continuing to evolve at a rapid rate. With this, comes constant change in job roles and therefore, the set of skills required to achieve success.
As a result of the practice of lifelong learning an individual will find themselves more adaptable to change. Adaptability is one of the key competencies sought by organisations, and is a key skill required when transitioning through life’s phases. To ensure relevance and reduce the risk of redundancy, it is important for us to continue learning through every stage of life.
The benefits of lifelong learning
As opposed to formal education we experienced through school and tertiary, lifelong learning is focused on the particular needs of the individual. The result of this is often a greater improvement to personal and professional development as it aligns more closely with an interest or immediate purpose, such as promotion or upskilling.
Research with people who embrace lifelong learning has found improvements in the following areas.
- Memory consolidation and retrieval1
- Self-confidence building2
- Greater contribution to society2
- New hobbies2
- Greater cultural empathy2
- Skill development2
- Adaptability to change2
- Creative thinking2
- Ability to change career paths2
How do you become a lifelong learner?
The UNESCO Education Strategy 2014-2021 suggests education should shift from teaching fundamental skills to learning for personal development with emphasis on foreseeing skills that may become necessary in the future,
“The concept of lifelong learning requires a paradigm shift away from the ideas of teaching and training towards those of learning, from knowledge-conveying instruction to learning for personal development and from the acquisition of special skills to broader discovery and the releasing and harnessing of creative potential. This shift is needed at all levels of education and types of provision, whether formal, non-formal or informal.”UNESCO Education Strategy
Essentially, moving forward learning experiences won’t reflect traditional schooling. Education won’t center around math, science and english but instead, will be self-directed, with value on skills and knowledge enhancement. For example, learning to use Excel at an expert level or playing chess.
Moving out of our comfort zone and developing a new skill can be challenging for anyone, let alone with the complexity that life can bring. Here’s a simple acronym to help embed the practice of lifelong learning – PRACTICED.3
Make the practice your priority.
Retention of information requires repetition as well as reflection on how others learn, and take feedback.
Take your newfound knowledge and put it into action, again and again. We learn best by doing.
A curious mind is open like a parachute and willing to learn.
Teaching others what we’ve learnt can consolidate and reinforce our understanding.
Unique discoveries are found by individuals who have the judgement and persistence to see ideas to fruition.
Your mindset and mental focus will help you to refine your learning capability.
Exercise and nutrition
Your mental wellbeing relies on the strength of your physical wellbeing.
Different learning styles
We learn through seeing, hearing and doing. Use them all to embed new knowledge and skills.
Lifelong learning is an essential part of our career and personal development. Taking the step to make it a focus of our everyday lives will ensure we can remain open and curious as well as lead long and productive lives of our choosing.
1 – Parisi, German I. (ND). “Continual lifelong learning with neural networks: A review”. Neural networks (0893-6080), 113 , p. 54.
2 – Chisega-Negrila, Ana-maria. (2018) “LIFELONG LEARNING IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBALIZATION.” Economics, Management, and Financial Markets 13, no. 3
3 – Malone, Samuel A. (2014) “Awaken the Genius Within—A Guide to Lifelong Learning Skills.” Glasnevin Publishing Dublin