Maybe it was because in my 20s and 30s I thought I knew everything. Or perhaps it was tied to stage of life, when I was raising three babies and burning a candle at three ends, when “busy” was an idol or a god. Or maybe the “tyranny of the urgent” blinded me to more important things.
Whatever it was, somewhere along the way, I forgot to keep learning on purpose. Subconsciously I consigned learning to academic exercise confined to a classroom, picking up anything I needed to know with just enough knowledge to be dangerous (like when I accidentally deleted my blog).
I have more to say about that in an upcoming post at The Art of Simple, but for now let’s consider the benefits of being a life-long learner; a few I can think of:
1. It has the potential to save you money. Thanks to You Tube and the entire internet, you can learn how to do just about anything from making a perfect pie crust to replacing the brakes on your car. Learning how to do for yourself what you’ve historically paid for or hired someone else to do can save you thousands of dollars over a lifetime. I make the pies; my husband changes the brakes.
2. It sharpens your mind. People are living longer, and if I have that good fortune, if there’s anything I can do to stave off diminished capacity, I need to! According to the Rush Memory and Aging Project, “increased cognitive activity in the elderly slowed their decline in cognitive function and decreased their risk of mild cognitive impariment. The study showed that cognitively active seniors were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity.” (source)
3. It fosters a sense of accomplishment. Mastering a new skill boosts my confidence and makes me feel like I can tackle the next thing. It feeds natural-born curiosity and makes me feel better about myself.
4. It helps you remain relevant in a changing world. Oh, don’t we know this well in the virtual world? Facebook was in its infancy when I started blogging and Twitter hadn’t even been born! To earn credibility and respect in the workplace, no one can afford to adopt “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.
5. Positions you to help others. The more you know, the better able you’re equipped to work with others who can benefit from your leadership, expertise and experience.
6. Can expand your marketability in the workplace. Piggy-backing on #4, we don’t have to look farther than our economy and unemployment statistics to see this as true. Competition is fierce; it serves you well to learn more about your industry than the next fella looking for a job.
7. Keeps you young. Who wants to be an old dog? Don’t be intimidated or scared to learn new tricks! It’s hard for me to admit this, but I’m preaching to myself on this one. For me, this is subtle; I’ve realized if I can’t figure out something by myself or right from the beginning, I’ll put it down, get by with the little I know, and presume I can’t learn more–without even trying alternative means of learning.
8. Maximizes use of what you already have. Here, I’m thinking technology, but you might have other ideas how it applies to you. I have an iPhone, a Macbook, digital camera and half a dozen remotes, and I know how to use all of them “enough”, but none of them completely.
9. Invites new friendships. Maybe it’s learning a new hobby; local home improvement, craft stores and gardening centers offer free workshops. Or community colleges offer continuing ed classes for adults. Free classes give you opportunity to learn in a group setting, and the social aspect is bonus.
10. Makes you a more well-rounded person. It’s easy to fall into the rut of not trying new things, but if you’re willing to open yourself to something new, you’ll find it makes you multi-dimensional. You’ll have something fresh to talk about. You’ll be challenged; or tapping into an existing passion will set a good foundation for reaching the next step.
So. It’s a new year. Let’s not make breakable resolutions. Let’s commit to learning something new. A few things I’m thinking about?
How to crochet baby blankets.
How to make a chocolate soufflé.
Maximizing use of my Macbook and iPhone.
Making and edit videos.
Learning about architectural style (interest really piqued while living in Germany)
Bird identification (I’m always wondering what I’m looking at….)
Menopause (whether or not I like it, I’m there; it would only serve me to learn much more about the common insanity raging inside my body…)
Geography refresher. ( Umm…I’m geographically impaired; this is fixable with rote memory.)
Your turn: What would you like to learn? Are you already committed to being a life-long learner? If so, I’m curious how it manifests itself in your life.
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2014 is going to be an interesting year and I’d love for us to travel together!