7 Tips to Ensure Life-long Learning Posted on 30 Sep 16:26

Recently, I read an astounding statistic that I simply can’t get over. When I discovered that 42% of all college graduates never read another book after college, ever…again, my co-workers had to resuscitate me. I’m still stammering. Look, I’m no Theodore Roosevelt, adept speed reader acting as our nation’s 26th president, who ingested a book every day for the bulk of his educated life. (That’s 365 books a year people!) But I do believe in learning for learning’s sake. It’s important to learn something valuable each day that I breathe, and think, and exist. I agree with visionary Lew Rockwell—it’s an odd idea to devote only a quarter of our lives to learning, just to rest on our less inspired laurels for the remaining three-quarters of our lives.

Selecting a book

So how do we become life-long learners? I’ve researched ideas from several experts and I have a few ideas of my own. Here’s a list of things you can do to become erudite students—students who learn for the whole of their lives.

1. Prioritize Learning
This tip is a good one to begin with. Basically, you gotta wanna…learn. Don’t be content with what you know. Like most things in life, if you want to be good at learning, you have to make a commitment to it. Devote time to educating yourself daily. I find it’s easiest to accomplish tasks if I carve out a specific time of day to dedicate to a particular pursuit, then I’m more apt to have my aspirations materialize.

2. Read Abundantly
Reading is an integral part of the learning process. Read books, newspapers, blogs, magazines, the back of labels—anything really. Read abundantly. Of course, I recommend reading a robust amount of good literature. Not only will it bolster your vocabulary, it will expand your worldview; the fact that books entertain is just an added bonus. It’s a good idea to always carry a book with you. You’ll be surprised at how much downtime you have in a day, time where you have to wait, time where you could fill your head with the good stuff.

3. Be Fit
Some students imagine that learning is merely a mental occupation. Not true. Learning is physical as well as mental. Sleep, diet, and exercise all contribute to acquiring an successful education. Here’s a testimonial about the effectiveness of fitness improving mental clarity. (Oh, and be sure to throw on some tunes when you’re exercising, that’s bound to help as well.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnbj81ChMg8

4. Collaborate
We’ve all heard the expressions, “many hands make lighter work,” or “the more the merrier.” It’s usually true that two or three heads are, in fact, better than one. Learning in a group can be a great way to naturally give and receive feedback, to refine understanding through discussion and explanation, as well as to challenge assumptions and really think about why you think the way you do. Being in a group can also motivate students to make and keep deadlines, so don’t go strictly solo in your pursuit of knowledge.

Group Reading Together

5. Create a “To-Learn” List
My mother-in-law constantly makes “to-do” lists. She has “to-do” lists about her “to-do” lists. But, she gets a lot done. Certainly there is wisdom in the idea that it’s only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal. If you set goals for learning, you’re much more likely to accomplish them. My father made a goal to learn another language; at 63, that’s no small task. He charted out how he would pursue language acquisition. Each week he had goals on his “to-learn” list to make fluency happen. Your lists will be different than his. Maybe you set out to read all of Jane Austen’s grand books, or to visit a museum or exhibit every week in the summer. Maybe you’re interested in learning a new skill or hobby? Your “to-learn” list one week may revolve around taking a class on atly. (Smart move.) Whatever you want to learn, write it down, and check it off as you go along.

6. Think/Ponder
It’s not enough to just stuff knowledge into your brain. You have to be more than an information center. To be educated, you have to become a good thinker. You have to process information. Albert Einstein understood that, “any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into the lazy habits of thinking.” No lazy thinking! Take time to ponder what you learn and make important connections. Writing down your ideas can be a productive way to go beyond cursory thoughts. Remember, depth of thought usually produces some new important insight.

7. Apply/Teach
Applied knowledge is best. I find that I’m a better student when I’m teaching—that’s when my learning is optimal. Not everyone can teach formally, but we all have opportunities to teach informally. You can always strive to apply knowledge so it sticks. Applied knowledge will make you wise.

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”

Abraham Lincoln