Although there is no standard definition of lifelong learning, most have taken it to be a self-initiated training that’s centered on self-awareness and is not taught in the traditional educational institutes like schools, colleges, or universities. Lifelong learning is voluntary and is not restricted to informal learning.
Lifelong learning’s purpose is to achieve personal fulfillment. Personal fulfillment is the ability to learn how to grow our goals and interests outside the formal settings of jobs and schools. Curiosity is natural to human nature, and so is learning.
Lifelong learning recognizes that most of our learning happens outside classrooms. We engage in lifelong learning every day through our curiosity, motivations, and natural interests. Examples of lifelong learning outside classrooms include a child taking swimming lessons or learning vocabularies, or an adult learning to use a smartphone or a new recipe.
Lifelong learning is voluntary, self-starting, self-taught, informal, rarely has a cost, and is motivated by personal interests.
Most employers seek lifelong learning as a key component of their employee’s development. Lifelong learning in an organization means employees constantly engage in continuous learning to improve skills to stay relevant and competitive. However, researchers warn some employers may take advantage of this and place the burden of personal learning on employees without providing resources to help them achieve this.
Most people often ask themselves if they need to be proactive about lifelong learning. Every day we learn something new, whether it’s from our daily routine of engaging in conversation with others, browsing the internet, or personal interests.
So, how do you get started on lifelong learning?
Recognizing goals and personal interests
Lifelong learning is not about what other people want, rather it’s about what you are passionate about, and your vision about your future.
Career progression may be your personal interest, so participating in self-directed learning can help you achieve this goal. You can be passionate about learning history, then there are ways you can accomplish this interest.
List what you want to learn or can accomplish.
Now you have identified your personal interests and motivation, it’s time to explore further on the interest you want to achieve.
You have identified learning history to be your passion, now it’s crucial to identify whether you just want to expand your knowledge, or you want to go for a Ph.D.
Because these interests are of different levels, then learning will be different and will require different learning resources to achieve.
Identify the resources needed, their availability, and how you get started
To achieve your personal goals and interests, figure out how you will get started. Reading and research about your interest or goal will guide you in planning a learning plan on how you will get started.
Returning to our example, a person looking to expand their knowledge about the history of a particular time can achieve this through library books, museums, or magazines about that subject.
If you wanted to get a Ph.D., you could research on university programs that match your goal and the steps it would take you towards your doctorate.
Structuring your interest into your life
Lifelong learning is all about you making time and space in your busy life to fit a new goal or interest. Without proper structuring, you can easily end up being discouraged and quitting the learning initiative. Be realistic with the time you devote to learning.
Stay committed to your goal
Commitment towards learning or achieving your goal is important. When you commit to your personal interests and goals, then you will find fulfillment and satisfaction in lifelong learning. Avoid making excuses and commit to realistic expectations through self-motivation.