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Follow These Four Simple Steps to Become a Lifelong Learner

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Are you still in the habit of learning new things? Once you’re out of school, it can be easy to get out of practice with learning. If that’s the case with you, it’s time to come to terms with the reality that pushing yourself to learn new skills is critical to your long-term career success.

A lot of people say they’re lifelong learners, but their actual behavior doesn’t always meet the standard. Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Being a lifelong learner means you have a growth mindset and an innate curiosity about the world. You’re constantly pushing to find more by way of new challenges, ideas, and experiences. You’re reading books, learning new skills, and honing your expertise. Lifelong learners are in a never-ending pursuit to be the best, most well-rounded version of themselves, both personally and professionally.

The benefits of lifelong learning

Becoming a lifelong learner will benefit your life in more ways than you might initially expect.

Increased employability. The world is changing at a speed we’ve never seen before. It’s estimated that about half of today’s jobs will be eliminated by 2025 as a result of technological innovation. Before we know it, work will look and feel completely different than it does right now. This new world demands lifelong learning, skill development, and mastery of new technologies. When looking for employees, employers want to find someone who knows how to do the job and is dedicated to continuous growth and development to keep up with change. Continuing to learn will better position you for whatever your employer needs as things change over time. This will lead to greater success, more promotions, and a better salary as employers see just how valuable you are.

Looking to make yourself more employable? Learn about skills employers will want in a post-COVID world.

Additional perspective. Being a lifelong learner gives you perspective on both the world and yourself. In order to understand different people and their perspectives, it’s important to learn how to think about things in different ways. This will help you build stronger relationships and have greater social awareness. Learning new things will also help you gain a better sense of who you are and what you have to offer. You’ll probably surprise yourself with what you’re able to accomplish!

An enriched life. Learning will help you lead a more fulfilling and multidimensional life for longer. Research shows that the more you learn, the greater your cognitive abilities will be as you age. Being a lifelong learner will help prevent age-related memory loss, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, and equip you to face new challenges as you age.

Steps to take to become a lifelong learner

Fully dedicating yourself to becoming a lifelong learner can seem daunting at first. After all, who has the time to dedicate to learning with everything else going on? To become a lifelong learner, follow these tips:

Make a commitment. Becoming a lifelong learner takes dedication, discipline, and focus. The first step in becoming one is committing to doing so. Promise yourself you’ll spend a portion of time dedicated to learning and improving your knowledge and skills. One way to stay true to your commitment is by scheduling your learning time. Try to set aside a little bit of time each day that you’ll dedicate to learning and nothing else.

Be efficient. You probably learned this in college, but it’s worth saying again. Cramming is not the way to learn. The best learning occurs in periods of shorter intense focus followed by periods of mind wandering. It may sound counterintuitive, but incorporating relaxation into learning will help you retain more information! Consider trying the Pomodoro technique, which recommends 25-minute bursts of work followed by five-minute breaks. And during this burst of learning, remember to focus on small amounts of information at once in order not to overload your brain!

Organize your learning. It’s hard to learn if you don’t know what you’re planning on focusing on. When learning something new, think of a loose lesson plan you want to follow so you have a sense of which materials you need. Then figure out what tools you want to use, like a productivity app to keep your learning all in one place.

Focus. When you’re learning, try your best just to focus on learning. Avoid the urge to multitask and take on too many things at once. One study found that multitasking reduced IQ performance just as much as skipping sleep. Experiment with different levels of background sounds and settings to find the perfect combination to help you get in the zone without distraction.

Types of lifelong learning

Lifelong learning varies from person to person. There are many ways to pursue lifelong learning, and the trick is finding the best one for you. Lifelong learning can look like self-directed learning through online learning platforms, books, or workshops. It can take the form of professional learning through conferences, networking, and staying up-to-date on industry news. It can also manifest itself via formalized lifelong learning through pursuing a degree or professional certification.

One particularly effective pathway to becoming a lifelong learner is by going back to graduate school and earning an MBA.

Read more: Are You a Good Candidate for an Executive MBA?

Not only do you receive an invaluable education that sets you up for long-term career success, you also become part of a community that supports lifelong learning. MBA programs know your education shouldn’t end when you earn your degree, and many are committed to supporting your educational journey after you leave the classroom. MBA programs often make online coursework available to their alumni network for in-demand subjects, host in-live learning events, and even offer one-on-one counseling with the career services staff. These options vary by program, so make sure you do your research when making the next step in your journey as a lifelong learner.

Are you ready to take the first step towards becoming a lifelong learner? Explore the many ways that business school can jump start your pursuit to bettering yourself.

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Calling all optimists logo black and yellowThis article was written in partnership with Calling All Optimists, a career resource to help professionals find their next career step. Learn more and sign up here.