10 Ways You Can Become a Lifelong Learner

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -William Butler Yeats

Summer…. Don’t we all love it? Enjoying  the days in the sunshine, drinking lemonade on the back deck,  spending more time with family, and kids (and college students) getting a chance to relax before school starts again. I am not sure who loves summer more—kids, or teachers!

But, one thing I’ve learned over the course of my lifetime is that summer vacation isn’t an excuse for learning to go out the window. The same is true for us adults, who are well advanced in our careers.  Whether it’s exploring new topics or taking a deeper dive into subjects we already know, life-long learning is a pursuit that will serve kids—and adults—for the rest of their lives.

What are ways we can explore other subject areas, challenge our minds, and grow even stronger in areas that we enjoy?

I grew up living the simple life in small-town Wisconsin. It was a childhood I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I spent most of my free time either playing sports or hanging out in the woods with my friends. But, while that got me through high school and college just fine, I began to notice something early in my career…most of my peers were more intellectually well-rounded than me. I especially noticed it at gatherings when politics and world affairs were discussed.  I had little to contribute and it was affecting my self confidence.

I knew I had some serious catching up to do, especially considering the growing number of client meetings I attended. Thankfully, once I committed to stepping up my intellectual game, my confidence grew. It made a huge difference in my investment management career where I evaluated successful leaders.

In this global, knowledge-based economy, students need an insatiable appetite for learning. This means deepening their subject knowledge, as well as pursuing a variety of interests. Encourage them to explore other subject areas that challenge their minds.

Even for us adults, summer vacation is a great time to expand our horizons and try something new. We can even do it with our kids! Here are some ideas for the young people in your life as well as yourself:

  • Check out the free summer concerts happening in cities all over; discover some new music
  • Learn a new sport or hobby or revisit one you haven’t experienced in awhile
  • Catch up on current events by reading newspapers, magazines, and websites or by watching many of the wonderful shows on PBS .
  • Download the app for a media outlet you don’t normally follow. Get your news from a variety of places.
  • Volunteer for a charity
  • Read a book that wasn’t assigned to you or one you wouldn’t initially choose to read on your own
  • Write a book (why not?)
  • Go places: the beach, the park, a museum, the library, the zoo,
  • Enjoy the outdoors: try rock climbing, go biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, or hiking; identify the different types of nature you see
  • Job shadow someone who is employed in a career field you’re considering, or one you know little about but have always been interested in.

Encourage the young people you know to stretch their wings a little, to be lifelong learners (and do the same, yourself).  It’ll help them advance in life and make them more well-rounded and dynamic people.

What are ways you’ve encouraged learning in your children or student outside the classroom? How about for yourself?  How do YOU keep sharp and keep building your repertoire of skills and information?

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