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How to Create a Lifelong Learning Habit Even After You Graduate

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

Are you a fan of lifelong learning like I am? Some of the benefits of lifelong learning are: it helps prevent an existential crisis, it helps you grow as a person, and you become more interesting, respected, creative, and employable.

So, let's begin with this: what is lifelong learning?

If ongoing, voluntary, or self-motivated sounds overwhelming to you, then you are in good company. You might be thinking, "I can hardly muster up the motivation to change the clothes from the washer to the dryer, let alone enroll myself in a school I created, with a curriculum I wrote, where the accountability begins and ends with me." But as stated before, the benefits are tremendous and definitely are not solely limited to the ones listed. I would hate for you to miss out on them.

I am going to help mitigate some of the confusion and overwhelmedness that lifelong learning may stir in you by giving you a step-by-step guide of how to create and maintain your own lifelong learning habit. Let's begin friends.

Create the Curriculum

I know that this step can sound a little intimidating at first glance of the title but it doesn't have to be. This step is not as complex as it sounds. Honestly, it is quite simple. All you need to do is determine what you would like to study. It does not have to be subjects you're used to studying, either. If you are fresh out of college, subjects that might initially come to your mind are humanities, calculus, or English. Push yourself to think outside of the box. You will come to realize that the world is full of amazing and exciting information to be learned.

Before we begin determining what we will learn, I want us to remove any limiting thoughts that might prevent us from getting the most out of this process or would cause us to abstain from the process altogether. The first limiting thought that I want to mention is: lifelong learning is not limited to the traditional subjects that you think of when you envision school. The second limiting thought I would like us to set aside is that lifelong learning is solely reading books. I believe reading has a place in this process, but if you are someone who hates reading and would allow that to be a reason to not partake in lifelong learning then, I want to ensure you that there are other ways to continue to learn. I will talk more extensively about this in the next section, but first, I have created a list of lifelong learning ideas for you. Remember, there are many, many more ideas, but I wanted to give you a solid list to begin with.

Lifelong Learning Ideas:

1. Read the classics.

2. Learn how to grow a garden.

3. Watch all of the Star Wars movies.

4. Learn how to properly lift weights.

5. Learn how to cook an amazing steak.

6. Learn how to make marinades.

7. Learn how to blow glass.

8. Learn how to invest in the stock market.

9. Learn how to make jewelry.

10. Learn how to build a budget.

11. Learn interior design.

12. Learn the history of the town you live in.

13. Learn how to develop confidence.

14. Learn how to define and communicate your own values.

15. Learn how to start a business.

16. Learn how to start a blog.

17. Learn how to use Photoshop.

18. Learn how to make your own laundry soap.

19. Learn how to landscape your backyard.

20. Learn how to write a resume.

21. Learn calligraphy.

22. Learn how to style your hair multiple different ways.

23. Learn how to properly wash your face.

24. Learn how to properly store your vegetables.

25. Learn how to play a new sport.

26. Teach yourself more vocabulary.

27. Learn how to do your own taxes.

28. Develop your leadership skills.

29. Learn the core beliefs of all the religions.

30. Learn how we learn.

This list could be endless. Explore conventional and unconventional ideas of learning. Have fun with this.

Methods for Lifelong Learning

Just as there are many subjects you can learn, there are also many ways you can learn.

Consider the following:

1. Podcasts

2. Audio-books

3. Classes offered by your local college. They do not necessarily have to be for credit.

4. Ask your parents or grandparents questions.

5. Listen deeply. When we listen for the sake understanding, we learn a lot more than if we listen to respond.

6. Reading

7. Partake in a new skill.

8. Masterminds

9. Watch YouTube

10. Join a webinar or seminar.

People are diverse and we all learn differently, but there is a way of learning that suits you. It is likely that, you already do some of these things. The problem is that most of us take in information, but have not planned how we will retain the information. When we retain or apply the information, that is when we experience some of the true benefits of lifelong learning.

When we undertake learning something new, we go through some predictable stages: beginner, competency, and mastery. Something to keep in mind here, is that it is totally up to you if you want to master something or if you are content to be a beginner. If using moisturizer and a bar of soap for your face washing routine is okay with you, then don't worry about learning about serums and exfoliates. Knowing the level of mastery you want is important so that you know when you are finished. You could learn about any topic forever. There is plenty of information out there to do so, but I'm imagining you don't want a PHD in face washing.

How to Make Lifelong Learning a Habit

Okay girl. You now know what you are going to learn and you see a method that you think might work for you, so how do we make this a lifelong habit?

Make it sustainable.

This is probably the hardest part personally for me. I am a hoarder of information, and I am often ready to move onto the next book once I hit chapter 6 of the one I am currently reading. I have a special kind of FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to information, but this do-it-all-at-once attitude is not sustainable and it sure is not serving me. If you can relate, I am sure you know it is not serving you either.

To begin making this habit sustainable consider the following:

1. How much free time do you have?

If lifelong learning is to be sustainable, you cannot plan an activity that is going to require 2 hours of a day if you have 2 hours available per week. This is one way to lose momentum quickly because as you begin to fall behind, you'll start telling yourself that you are a failure, and chances are, you do not like feeling like a failure so you quit.

Realistically look at your schedule. How much time do you actually have? Sometimes to be on the safe side, I try to overestimate how much time something will take. If I think it will take 30 minutes then I will put it on the calendar for an hour. I do not know about you, but I would rather have extra free time instead of feeling like my calendar is packed to the brim..

2. How much energy do you have and when do you have it?

This part matters because our top excuse are: "I am too tired," and "I don't feel like it." Now, these excuses are not dictators. Sometimes we just need to ignore them and do the thing. Other times, however, if not taken into account, they will derail us from our priority of learning.

Would you consider yourself low or high energy? When do you have that energy? In the morning, afternoon, evening, or nighttime?

Personally, I am the most productive from 8 A.M. - 2 P.M., and I am fairly productive from 3 P.M. - 7 P.M., but if I have to do something after that, then I'm almost good for nothing, especially if it is on a regular basis.

So, think over this for yourself. Consider when you have the most energy and take that into account when creating your learning habit.

3. Make your mindset sustainable. No perfectionism allowed.

If you're the type to give up if you miss a day, take this suggestion seriously. You will miss days. Your beginnings will embarrass you at times. You will at times feel like, "you're not catching on." Press through, because our beginnings build us.

I once heard it said, "Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction." Let that sink in. Perfectionism causes us to quit altogether, but not you friend. You won't quit. You are going to press on because learning something is better than learning nothing.

4. Keep it in balance with your other values.

At times in our lives, we forsake ourselves for what feels like a worthy pursuit. We spend all of our time and energy starting a business, getting a college degree, or building a career, and we forget we are a holistic person.

When you are creating a learning habit, keep in mind everything you enjoy. Find times for those things as well, otherwise your learning habit won't be sustainable. Maybe there is a possibility to find a way to combine learning with another value. For example, if you like talking and socializing, possibly a book club. The more you "feel like a person", the more likely your habit will stick.

Use SMART Goals to Plan Your Learning

If you have not heard of SMART goals, it is an acronym that means:

S - Specific

M - Measurable

A- Attainable

R - Relevant

T - Timely/ Time Bound

1. Specific

Your learning goals cannot be vague. Vagueness is sure to steal your clarity and your sense of accomplishment. You will never know where to start and where to end if you are vague. For example, if you say, "I want to read more." How much more? What would you like to read? Whereas, if you said, “I would like to read one finance book a week,” those are two totally different statements. One gives you clear steps of how to proceed going forward. The other, on the other hand, will leave you telling yourself, "You could always do more. You can always be better."

So, make your learning goals specific friend. Take time to define them and you will be off to a good start.

2. Measurable

Making a learning goal measurable helps you be aware of retention and growth. You want to know your progress. If your learning goal was to add more vocabulary, would you measure it by how many new words you could use in a sentence in a week? Totally up to you, but when you make the goal measurable you can assess whether you're in the beginner, competency, or mastery stage. It will let you know how much more work you have to do.

3. Attainable

As a life coach, I believe in very big goals. Coaches believe in your "impossible" dreams, but, the very next step in reaching those dreams needs to be attainable. We believe big dreams are created by small steps. There is a time and place for massive action, but that action needs to be sustainable. Making your learning goals as attainable as possible will build momentum in your life. So, if your goal is quite large, what is the next small step in reaching it?

4. Relevant

Is your learning goal relevant to you? Does it reflect your values? Will it help you reach your other goals? If you want to be a published author then studying writing would be very relevant to you. If you want to eat healthier and save money then learning to plant a garden would be relevant. Take some time to look at your deepest values and ask how they might be enhanced by your learning goals. Once you decide on a few ways, you'll have very relevant areas of study. That will make the process full of excitement

5. Timely/ Time Bound

"Things will take as long as you give them." - Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School

If you give yourself 3 months to read a book, it will take 3 months. If you give yourself a week to finish, then you will have it finished in a week. The difficulty with this step is that in most cases, you have to hold yourself accountable to the time limit you set. I know a lot of people have a hard time with holding themselves accountable, but we must constrict the lifelong learning activity to a reasonable time limit. Otherwise, we might be providing ourselves with a superfluous amount of white space in our lives. When we provide an over abundance of free time without weighing it against our goals and values, we are guaranteed time wasted. We don't want to waste our life, friends. We want to wring it of all its potential and pleasure. Let's set purposeful time limits for our goals.

Well, hey friends, if you have stuck with me until the end, pat yourself on the back. You now know what and how to study, plus what practices you should adopt to make this a lifelong habit. Adopting a lifelong learning habit will quickly put you on tracks toward an intentional and well-lived life. I hope you join the group of the lifelong learners.

You got this.

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