In a keynote talk to thousands of employees of a leading and innovative customer relations firm, Tony Robbins boldly asserted: “To feel alive, you have to grow.” He also told the room: “What makes us happy is who we are becoming.” The “we” I believe he means is the future us, the person we aspire to be and are growing into with each day of living a mindful, connected life.
When we are learning, we feel alive, engaged and connected to the world around us. In learning mode, we are open and receptive, attentive and aware – all key ingredients to strong, authentic connection.
But lifelong learning is not just about promoting a sense of happiness and connection – it’s also an essential factor in maintaining brain health. Pioneering neuroscientist Marian Diamond once identified “challenge” and “newness” as two of the five essential things our brains regularly need to be healthy. Her incredible work on neuroplasticity helped to change the way modern science understands and approaches the connection between learning, growth, and healing.
The Benefits Of Committing To Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning connects us to our most vital selves, and all we need to get started is curiosity. Whenever we are in a state of learning, we are evolving and growing. It doesn’t really matter what we are learning about – it’s the process that matters. Whether it’s learning a new language or skill, learning a new recipe, reading historical fiction or just watching a documentary film, the benefits of learning are far beyond the new knowledge we attain.
- It broadens our perspective and the reactions we have to life
- It triggers an automatic examination and calibration of beliefs
- By promoting empathy, it helps us accept others more easily
- It boosts self-awareness, self-confidence and offers a chance for mastery
- Through the challenge of learning, we stretch our comfort zones and develop resilience
Increase Meaning With Contextual Knowledge
An excellent way to boost your sense of meaning and connection is to fill in knowledge gaps and widen your perspective with contextual learning. A friend of mine uses the example of an art museum to illustrate why this is so important to the journey of lifelong learning. When we wander around with no prior knowledge or context for what we are looking at, we get a one-dimensional impression of the artwork, evaluating it primarily for its aesthetic value.
In contrast, if we take the time to read about the author and his work, as well as the social and historical relevance of their creative offering, we experience the art in a much more meaningful way. Likewise, the more we take time to learn about the culture or language of a country we visit, the more likely we will be to interact with the people more meaningfully and to recognize significance in the sites and experience.
Contextualizing tends to bring things to life and make them more meaningful to us. Understanding more about a person, place, or topic gives you that many more possibilities to connect them with something that’s meaningful to you. So make an effort to learn more about the people or the subjects that you might find less meaningful. Broaden your horizons beyond your current repertoire, follow your enthusiasm and ask yourself: What is capturing my imagination lately?
Connect To Yourself Through Lifelong Learning
Change is truly the only constant in life, and learning to change with life is good for us. We don’t stop learning when we finish school, or master our jobs; there is always something new ahead of us that we will need to understand. Embracing learning as a lifelong activity helps to make those inevitable changes exhilarating, rather than terrifying.
As psychologist Anders Ericsson argues, “We humans are most human when we’re improving ourselves…. This distinguishes us from every other species alive today and, as far as we know, from every other species that has ever lived.”
Lifelong learning is one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to renew, expand, find meaning and connect with life. Let’s make the most of this uniquely human talent.