Tom Clancy said it best: “Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die.”
In a world of rapid change, you can probably see his point. If we stopped learning within the last few years, we wouldn’t know how to talk to Siri or how to access Hulu for TV shows we’d like to catch up on. We wouldn’t be able to keep up with fashion or the latest in gastronomic delights. Our perspectives, tolerance, world views and understanding would not have been broadened. For me, personally, not learning would mean I would have missed out on traveling abroad and on discovering a mad passion for Sudoku puzzles.
Like it or not, we are learning all the time. We have to be just in order to keep up with everything that’s happening around us. Even so, many adults resist formal learning. They do not choose to attend training courses offered by their employers and, if forced to attend, exhibit an unwillingness to really open up and try new methodologies. Going back to school for degree completion programs or advanced degrees is tantamount, for some, to going to prison. Reading a book, attending a lecture, watching a documentary film, sitting through an online tutorial or any other on-purpose learning activities seem highly undesirable to many.
In a previous blog post, we mentioned the importance of learning agility as a compensator. If you are nimble and able to learn quickly and to cross-apply what you learn, that competency will compensate for many skills you do not have. Those who value learning and seek out opportunities to learn clearly have an advantage.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why adults resist learning. We covered that in a previous blog post, too. It has to do with the ways adults learn and the learning experiences they’ve had in the past that have been more negative than positive.
But let’s set all of that aside for a moment and focus on the core issue. In order to seek out learning opportunities and to get the most out of them, you’d first have to value the learning. You’d have to see why learning benefits you, personally. Those benefits would need to go beyond checking it off the list of employer expectations. I’m talking about deeper level intrinsic motivations for why you would choose to learn something new.
These motivations would have to be greater than your learning apprehensions. They need to overcome your concerns about the time and money you’re investing, the fear you have of being exposed for not knowing something you think you should already know, and the inherent vulnerability there is in the struggle of learning. These motivations would even have to surpass your barriers to learning – the fact that you’re not the quickest student, that you don’t like to memorize or read or write, the skepticism you have about your own need to learn (because, after all, you’ve gotten by just fine for this long already).
Here are some proven benefits to learning something new. Consider what it would mean to you if you could achieve one or more of these benefits just because you made a choice to learn.
- Learners are earners. People who continually learn (whether or not they have advanced degrees) will earn more money than those who rely on a narrow set of skills and experiences.
- There is a link between education level and life expectancy. Those who are better educated are healthier.
- Parents who value learning for themselves have children who stay in school longer, have lower rates of crime, and aspire to higher paying jobs.
- People who seek adult learning opportunities are more socially connected, more involved in their communities and more likely to be politically active.
- A research report from The Center for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning (yep, there really is such a thing) indicates that “personal soft skills such as self-regulation, behavioral management, and social and communication skills are developed in educational settings.”
- The rate of depression is lower for adults who are actively involved in learning activities.
- People in learning environments have a wider and more diverse social circle.
- Those who learn readily and continually are better able to pass along what they have learned and act as teachers to their children and to their peers.
- When people learn, they gain confidence for trying new things and stretching themselves.
- Continual learning contributes to higher levels of resilience and self-efficacy in completing a task or tackling a challenge.
This is only a partial list of the benefits of being open to learning and to seeking out formal learning opportunities. Rather than focusing on the reasons not to learn, look at these benefits of learning. Then find the method of learning that suits you best. Where there is a will to learn, you will find the right way to learn.
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