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Make Learning a Lifelong Habit

John Coleman, Harvard Business Review

Updated Service Wide Skills

Overview

We all know the importance of lifelong learning. People with higher education levels often enjoy higher earnings, greater professional relevance, lower unemployment and longer lifespans than those with just high school degrees. Learning a new skill or topic is also fun and can give us a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Despite knowing all this, many of us struggle to make a habit of lifelong learning. What can we do to cultivate a learning habit in our busy lives?

What You’ll Learn

In the article “Make Learning a Lifelong Habit,” author John Coleman discusses how to develop a lifelong learning habit. His steps are:

  • Articulate the outcomes you’d like to achieve. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to learn? Answering these questions will help you visualize the end you hope to achieve and makes it easier to think of achievable goals.
  • Set realistic goals. Setting clear, achievable goals can help you both visualize your learning path and give you a goal to work toward.
  • Develop a learning community. Learning communities like book clubs or writing groups can help keep you on track, as well as give you an opportunity to network and learn from your peers.
  • Ditch the distractions. Multitasking and technology can keep us from getting to the deep concentration we need for real learning. Set aside time and space and minimize interruptions to make the most of your learning habit.
  • Use technology to supplement learning. While technology can sometimes be a distraction, it can also be a tool to aid a learning regimen. Online courses, podcasts, e-readers, and other technological tools make is easier to always have learning at your fingertips. Additionally, these tools can also allow you to learn on the go by listening to courses, books or podcasts while you commute, exercise or run errands. Combined with apps that track your progress, technology can help enhance your learning and keep it on track.

From the Article

[Theodore] Roosevelt was what we might call a “lifetime learner.” Learning became, for him, a mode of personal enjoyment and a path to professional success. It’s a habit many of us would like to emulate. The Economist recently argued that with all the disruptions in the modern economy, particularly technology, ongoing skill acquisition is critical to persistent professional relevance. Formal education levels are regularly linked to higher earnings and lower unemployment. And apart from its utility, learning is fun. It’s a joy to engage a new topic. Having an array of interesting topics at your disposal when speaking to colleagues or friends can boost your confidence. And its fulfilling to finally understand a difficult new subject.

Reflection

  • When thinking about your learning habits, which of the steps is hardest for you to achieve in developing better habits? Deciding an outcome, setting goals, finding a community, limiting distractions or using technology to your advantage? How can you overcome your obstacles to cultivate your learning habits?
  • What learning goals would you like to achieve this year? Next Year? In five years or longer? What habits do you need to develop to achieve those goals?

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