The More You Know
Knowledge is power –– you may have seen this phrase on classroom posters or heard it thrown around in conversation. But although everyone recognizes the inherent power of knowledge, most people stop actively trying to learn, especially after their formal schooling.
Try to think back to the last time you researched something purely out of interest, not just because you were looking up something work-related. Like most adults, the last time you probably took pleasure in learning was in childhood. If you think back, you might remember devouring content relating to your special interest of the week to find out everything you could on the subject. But as you grew older, you probably no longer found joy in learning. You’re not alone. Many people are reluctant to continue the practice of learning outside of their school years. This is because in schools, more often than not, you’re taught how to study but not how to learn.
Learning after school
Learning in adulthood is much like learning in early childhood. What you learn, and how much, is entirely in your hands. You got the chance to pursue the things you were most interested in, that’s what made it so fun. So the first step towards becoming a lifelong learner is to rediscover the joy of learning for learning’s sake. It’s as simple as listening to a podcast on the commute, or reading a magazine article with morning coffee. The world is your playground, and it’s up to you to explore it in whatever way you see fit.
So what are the benefits of lifelong learning? On a practical level, it’s a great way to upskill and increase your value in the workplace. But of course, learning extends beyond work, as not all our interests align with our career choices.
Actively taking time to learn something new can enrich your life by:
● Giving you a conversation starter — There’s no better way to build new connections with people than sharing knowledge. You get to have an enriching conversation and might even learn something new yourself
● Letting you pursue your passions — Life can take us down some unexpected paths, and sometimes the only chance you get to explore your passions is in your free time. Learning more about the things that interest you can be a welcome break from the real world
● Improving your confidence — Picking up a new skill or studying a new subject can help you test your limits and expand your horizons in ways even you didn’t expect
● Keeping you sharp — When you focus on learning something new, you’re giving your brain a comprehensive workout by engaging a wide variety of cognitive functions. As you get older, your memory and even reflexes stay in shape
● Expanding your viewpoint — The things you learn help shape your world view, and the more you know the more perspective you have to engage with the world around you
Fast-track learning in a fast-paced world
Once you’ve committed to becoming a lifelong learner, the difficulty lies in finding the time to pursue this interest. But in reality, you don’t need to carve out time in your busy schedule — you can learn anywhere –– on the way to work, while waiting in line at the bank, or even while taking a shower! You simply have to remember that learning is more than just sitting at a desk with dusty old textbooks.
YouTube can be a wellspring of information, with several channels created by learners for learners. CrashCourse, for example, has experts present a quick overview of their subjects in a short web-series format, while Vox is more of a grab bag of interesting insights and current events. Despite their different formats, they, and several other niche channels, are dedicated to providing free information to anyone who is interested. And the best part? You can access these videos at your convenience.
TV Shows and Movies
Now you may know that documentary films and series are a great way to learn more about your special interests, but did you know that other genres have a lot to teach you too? Aspiring writers and artists, for example, can pick up tips from fantasy and sci-fi. Film enthusiasts can use their favorite shows and movies as a starting point for further research into the creation process. Even some reality shows, like Project Runway or Master Chef, can help you develop your hobbies. And all this while you sit back and enjoy your favorite media.
If you’re better at remembering the things you hear, podcasts are your friend. They give you fresh insights, from both experts and amateur enthusiasts, about your hobbies and interests that you can follow at your own pace. They can also help you find a community of learners who share the same interests as you do. But one of the major benefits of listening to podcasts is that they allow you to learn even while you’re busy with other activities. Just play one in the background while you cook, clean, or work and turn any moment into a learning session.
You can pick up a surprising amount of information just by taking a moment and having a conversation with the people around you. You’re sure to pick up something interesting, whether it’s a tip to help you improve your skills or a fresh insight into one of your interests. You may even uncover a new interest thanks to their enthusiasm! What’s more, this sharing of knowledge is a two-way street — they’re learning new things from you too. Also keep your ears tuned for talks happening near you. Not only will you get expert information in an easy to understand way, but you get a fun night on the town and a chance to interact face-to-face with a whole new set of people with the same interests as you.
If you learn best by doing, and find yourself with a little free time, look up hobby classes in your community. Not only will they let you pick up a new skill, but they can also help reduce stress and disengage from the pressures of everyday life. If a formal class isn’t for you, try picking up a skill on your own through online tutorials and demos! Either way, you’ll reap the benefits.
Learning doesn’t have to be a stressful and boring experience, not when you can pick and choose what you want to learn. So pull up your favorite video, sign up for a class in the community and take your first steps towards becoming a life-long learner.