Be a Lifelong Learner – It’s Never too Late for Personal Development and Improvement
By Emma Robertson
At age 50, my sister, who had spent her entire career as a teacher, decided to retire early and go to law school. My question to her: “Why in the world are you doing this at this stage in your life?” Her answer: “Because I’ve always been fascinated by the law, and I want to study it. I may never practice, but that’s not the point.”
The practical me began to think of all of the cons of this move – the cost, the work, her age, etc. And for what? To pursue a “dream” without a practical objective?
Of course, ultimately, I had to think of my own life and the learning that I had undergone over the years. And my thoughts soon began to change. No, I had not gone back to school to pursue an entirely unrelated career. But I had moved in any number of unrelated directions and still am. And in each of those moves, I had to learn new skills and thought processes. It’s still ongoing – many of we humans seem to be driven to pursue improvement.
What Exactly Constitutes Improvement?
In fact, it is anything we go after that makes us better – as a person, in a career, as a partner or parent, or as a member of our larger society or human race.
- The pregnant mom who attends parenting classes in order to develop skills for the well-being of her unborn child
- The middle-aged man who decides to join a gym, change his diet, and improve his physical health
- The couple who decides to attend a marriage renewal program
- The high school dropout who determines to get his GED
- The busy and stressed career woman who enters a Yoga program to get the inspiration she needs to move her life in a more spiritual direction
- The senior citizen who attends community college courses to learn auto mechanics, so that he can service his own cars, or bridge, so he can join a club that plays regularly
- The young adult who decides to commit to charitable work and joins his local Habitat for Humanity organization
The point is this: all of these activities involve learning and improving in some way. And when we do this, new doors are opened, both externally and within.
How Learning Leads to External Self-Improvement
“No man is an island” is almost a trite expression now. But it is a universal piece of wisdom. No one of us can live in isolation from others. And every experience we have with another human being improves us in some way.
- We become more aware of the uniqueness of each individual we encounter
- We have the opportunity to share our life experiences and to hear about theirs
- We become more accepting of diversity and more empathetic to the beliefs and values of others
- We can gain greater knowledge and wisdom.
How Learning Leads to Internal Self-Improvement
One of the keys to self-improvement involves internal changes - changes in thought, attitude, confidence, and self-worth. As we continue to learn, the following occurs:
- We will question our long-held biases and prejudices and emerge from such introspection with a new and better sense of self and the worth of all others.
- We will assess our current behaviors in many aspects of our living and work to change them so that they align with our “new” internal self.
- From a scientific point-of-view, the continuation of learning new things throughout one’s life keeps the mind in shape. Continual cognitive activity keeps brains cells active and develops new connections (called synapses) between various parts of the brain. Ultimately, the promote what researchers call “mental sharpness.”
- We become more confident that we are able to choose the right paths and make the right decisions no matter what challenges we may face.
It’s Not the Specific Learning Experience – It’s the Learning Itself
It doesn’t matter which specific lifelong learning experiences we choose to engage in. What does matter is that we commit to learning. For every specific experience, no matter how shallow or how deep, leads to greater understanding of ourselves and others. And what better self-improvement can there be than greater understanding?
Emma Robertson is rather a “Renaissance woman.” After a career in accounting, she took a leap of faith and decided to become a freelance writer. She is now finishing up a book on his great adventure of transition and what she has learned in the process. In the meantime, she is now a writer for Essays Deluxe and Classy Essay.com, two writing services that assist students with their academic assignments.
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