Adopting Lifelong Learning: Definition, Benefits and Tips

Updated June 24, 2022

Most people receive their education through formal schooling and career training programs, which prepare them for jobs and real-world situations. Some people choose to take their educational experiences further by pursuing learning opportunities throughout their lifetimes. Adopting lifelong learning habits may help you reach your personal and professional goals by teaching you academic and social skills that can lead to success. In this article, we explain what it means to adopt lifelong learning, discuss the benefits of doing so, explore ways to pursue it in the workplace and provide tips for developing lifelong learning habits.

Related: Lifelong Learning: What It Is, Benefits and Habits

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What does it mean to adopt lifelong learning?

Adopting lifelong learning means you choose to pursue your education beyond a formal educational setting. You can find learning opportunities that allow you to pursue personal interests, such as hobbies or topics you enjoy learning about, or you can seek continuing education programs that may help you advance in your career. Some types of lifelong learning may provide you with transferable skills that you can use in many areas of your life. Some methods people use to adopt lifelong learning habits include:

  • Books and magazines

  • Online publications

  • Webinars and e-learning platforms

  • Conferences

  • College classes

  • Training courses

Benefits of adopting lifelong learning

There are many benefits of adopting lifelong learning after completing your formal education. Some people find these opportunities satisfying because they choose to pursue them so they can learn about subjects they enjoy at their own pace. Here are some primary benefits of adopting lifelong learning:

Career success

Learning about trends and topics related to your work can help you advance in your career. People often become members of professional organizations within their industries. This allows them to have access to news about issues like emerging technologies and changing processes and attend webinars and in-person events that provide them with useful information. Professionals may also pursue educational and training opportunities through local college programs, their workplaces and self-guided learning, particularly if they want to advance in their careers.

Cognitive health

Learning about new concepts may encourage optimal cognitive health. Besides allowing you to learn about topics you find important to your life or your work, lifelong learning might also keep your brain healthy. Educational opportunities challenge your brain, which promotes processes that may help improve your concentration, memory and problem-solving skills. Even certain activities, such as puzzles, may increase your ability to retain information and work more efficiently.

Related: Cognitive Skills: What They Are and How To Improve Them

Social connection

Lifelong learning can help you develop the confidence to pursue social relationships. By taking classes on topics that appeal to you or reading books that teach you more about the industry you work in, you may find you feel more comfortable making conversation with others in your field. It can also provide the opportunity to meet other people who share your interests or work in the same industry, which can help you build your professional network.

Personal fulfillment

Choosing to continue learning throughout your career and your life can lead to a sense of personal fulfillment. Some people find that furthering their education on topics they learned about in a formal academic setting or pursuing topics that can help them in the workplace makes them feel empowered, as they can use their knowledge to help them reach their goals. It may also help prevent burnout, as professionals who feel motivated to learn and achieve more often take steps to continue advancing in their careers.

Adopting lifelong learning in the workplace

Taking steps to adopt lifelong learning in the workplace can help you perform well in your role and meet your short-term and long-term career goals. Here are four ways you can pursue lifelong learning at work:

1. Establishing SMART goals for learning and performance

Professionals often set goals at work based on performance objectives, such as project timelines. Performance-based goals can help you stay on schedule and succeed in completing your tasks, but you might also consider establishing SMART goals for lifelong learning. These goals may help you gain knowledge that may improve your performance and prepare you to move up in your field. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound, which allows you to determine challenging but approachable goals for furthering your education, monitoring your progress towards them and visualizing achievement.

Related: How To Write SMART Goals (With Examples)

2. Finding continuing education opportunities

Some professions require continuing education at specific intervals, but even if your industry doesn't have set guidelines for continuing education, you can still benefit from completing courses. You might consider classes that result in optional certifications, which may enable you to earn promotions or higher-paying jobs. You can also find classes through professional organizations or audit a college course that applies to your field. Many colleges and universities allow students to audit online or in-person courses, which means you can attend at little to no charge without receiving college credit.

Related: 12 Types of Continuing Education

3. Staying informed about your industry

Learning about what's happening in your industry can give you insight into upcoming changes and trends that may affect your role, especially if you work in a technology-focused field. Staying updated can help you grow along with your industry and learn about new resources, processes and equipment that can aid in your success. Many people become members of professional organizations to receive access to resources, such as industry-specific publications and educational opportunities. You can also follow these organizations on professional social media pages to receive regular updates about news in your industry.

4. Taking a self-guided approach at work

If you work in an independent role or have considerable experience in your position, consider talking to a manager about pursuing a self-guided approach to completing your duties. Professionals who feel comfortable in their roles can benefit from working autonomously, as establishing your own schedule, deadlines and responsibilities may help you develop critical skills for career advancement. If you recently began your career or your job requires a team approach, you can seek other learning opportunities and perform regular self-evaluations to monitor your progress.

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Tips for adopting lifelong learning

Here are some tips to consider for adopting lifelong learning habits:

  • Read often: Reading, regardless of whether it pertains to your career, allows you to continue learning and improving your vocabulary.

  • Maintain your network: Staying in contact with people you meet through work and professional events can help you stay informed about educational opportunities.

  • Make lists: Keeping lists of your lifelong learning plans and ideas allows you to stay organized and monitor your progress.

  • Help others: Many people find that by mentoring their peers, they also learn valuable lessons that benefit their personal and professional lives.

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