Life long learnerI’ve been thinking about life-long learning as I reflect on where I want to direct my passion and energy. You see, I’m all about continual development, growth, and transformation. Given my recent relocation to Texas after having lived more than 20 years in North Carolina, this seems the perfect time to reevaluate the path I’ve traveled and decide what I’d like to experience next.

Learning and development is a topic that I frequently touch upon in my writing. I believe that people who are learning something new are happier. They are expanding their lives in a deliberate, meaningful way.

Age, by the way, is irrelevant when it comes to learning something new as you’ll read in my post titled Don’t Let Age Fool You — Live Your Adventure!  

Have you ever wondered why we sometimes say we are going to learn something by heart instead of saying we are going to learn it by head? I answered that question in this post.

Here’s a post I wrote about a middle school teacher who encourages her students to “eat” their dissected projects — no lie!

Or what about free online education through some of the top-notch universities from around the world? Just read the article I wrote about Coursera.

Attributes of a Life-Long Learner

I love this quote by Beth Hawkes, who writes about the topic in her post “10 Signs You Might Be a Life-Long Learner” on  

Lifelong learners are ageless and project energy. They are in awe of the universe.  Continuing education and lifelong learning is a way of life.      

–Beth Hawkes

Ageless portals of energy — now that’s my kind of talk!

What other attributes make up a life-long learner? Many to be sure, but I’ll give you my top five.

  1. Curiosity: It goes without saying that first and foremost a life-long learner must be driven by the desire to get an answer to a question, to explore the perimeters of their understanding in pursuit of information, to push themselves to build upon the knowledge, skills, and experience they have accumulated already. Without curiosity, how would we have ever evolved as a human race?
  2. Fearlessness: No matter how old you are, learning something new can be intimidating. I remember when I learned to water ski when I was around 12 years old and how much courage it took to practically drown myself repeatedly before learning how to get up on a pair of skis. Over time, I learned to slalom and became comfortable on the water, but it took a lot of courage. Fear boils down to ego, so if you want to practice fearlessness, you’ve got to be able to release your ego attachment to “trying.”
  3. Perseverance: One of my dance partners used to say frequently that if we wanted to perfect a dance step, we only had to do it 5,000 times. In my case, he may have underestimated the requirement for repetition, but his point is valid. To learn something and learn it well (especially if it’s a skill), it takes practice. And practice requires perseverance — a steadfastness in doing something despite the difficulty, delay (or potential defeat) in achieving success.
  4. An Open Mind: Life-long learning requires one to be open to new ideas and flexible in the ways of learning. A great example is a reverse mentoring program where younger employees are coaching experienced employees on technology, social media, or any area of expertise. Reverse mentoring is a great corporate tool because not only does the mature worker benefit, the younger worker learns from the experience and wisdom of the mentee thus creating a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.
  5. Happiness: Life-long learners are not depressed people, sulking or complaining about the world. They are not the nay-sayers in life whose cup is always half-empty. Au contraire! Life-long learners relish in new opportunities and advances in science and technology. They are learning because they want to, not because they feel they have to. And for that reason, the activity leaves the learner with an increased sense of self-esteem and personal satisfaction. And that, dear readers, adds up to happiness.

I haven’t decided yet what new thing I will tackle, but I do know I will continue with my dancing passion — both in ballroom and Argentine Tango. A LOT of perseverance is needed in that pursuit, but the effort is worth it every time I get on the floor. I also plan to begin writing a new fiction novel before the end of the year, and that always requires extensive research which equals more learning!

What are you ready to learn? Leave me a comment so I can “learn” more about you!

sheila callahamIn addition to being a life-long learner, Sheila Callaham is a communications maven, change enthusiast, best-selling author, speaker, instructor, and motivational coach. 

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