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Alcohol and Mental Health

What Is Lifelong Learning and Why Is It Important?

September 20, 2023
19 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
September 20, 2023
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
September 20, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
September 20, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
September 20, 2023
19 min read

Think back to a time where you conquered a challenge or learned to do something new. Maybe you learned how to read in a new language after hours of studying, mastered your tennis serve after hitting hundreds of balls, or finally helped a client solve a technological glitch. Despite the challenge and discomfort you experienced, chances are you walked away feeling pretty good — almost as if you could conquer anything! 

Lifelong learning offers similar experiences, encouraging us to pursue knowledge, skills, and opportunities that help us grow personally and professionally. In this post, we’ll explore what lifelong learning is, why it’s important, and how to incorporate it into our lives. Let’s dive in!

What Is Lifelong Learning?

When we think about learning, we typically think about going to school or being in a classroom. While we certainly learn many important things from a formal education, we arguably learn more simply through experience. As the saying goes, “experience is the greatest teacher.” 

As adults, however, it can be easy to get stuck in our routine or set in our ways. It’s not that we don’t continue to learn, but perhaps we become a bit less intentional about challenging ourselves or opening ourselves up to new experiences. This is where lifelong learning comes into play. 

Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-driven pursuit of knowledge to enhance our personal or professional development. For instance, we might learn a new skill for fun, such as sewing, cooking, or photography. Or maybe we take an online course to help us gain more knowledge and skills to advance in our career. We might even learn a new sport, language, or instrument that we’ve always wanted to try. 

Unlike the mandatory learning we experience as schoolchildren, lifelong learning is something we choose to do willingly. It can occur in various settings — the workplace, local community, or online — and encourages us to pursue opportunities that foster personal and professional growth. 

Embracing a Growth Mindset

One benefit of lifelong learning is that it helps us foster a “growth mindset” — the belief that we can always change and grow. A growth mindset means that we believe that our skills, abilities, and outlook can change through new experiences and information, and by practicing new skills. With a growth mindset, we’re open to learning new things, recognizing that we can always learn something from our “failures.”

On the other hand, a “fixed mindset” is more limiting. A fixed mindset says that our intelligence, talent, and other qualities can’t be changed. Someone with a fixed mindset might assume that because they’re not good at something today, they’ll never be good at it. 

A growth mindset is key! It encourages us to continually learn and grow rather than remaining stuck in unhealthy patterns or behaviors. It also takes advantage of our brain’s ability to change and adapt over time — a concept known as “neuroplasticity.” 

For a long time, experts thought that our brain stopped developing at a certain age. However, research indicates that our brain grows and changes throughout our life, regardless of our age. In fact, learning is a crucial part of neuroplasticity because it exposes us to new information that creates new connections between neurons. These new connections can help rewire our brain and adapt to new circumstances.

Why Is Lifelong Learning So Important?

In addition to helping us embrace a growth mindset, lifelong learning offers a number of other benefits. Here are 5 reasons lifelong learning is so important: 

1. Helps Our Brain Stay Healthy

Just as we get in physical shape by going to the gym, we can also exercise and strengthen our cognitive function through lifelong learning. In fact, research shows that learning keeps brain cells working at optimum levels, which may slow aging-related cognitive and memory decline. The process of acquiring new knowledge and skills stimulates our brain, forming new neural connections that contribute to enhanced memory, focus, and problem-solving abilities. In other words, anytime we learn something new or exercise our brain — such as by reading, doing crossword puzzles, or learning to use a new technology — we’re sharpening our cognition. 

2. Increases Our Self-Confidence

Remember the last time you tried something new? It probably felt scary and uncomfortable, but after doing it, you likely felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. Lifelong learning enhances our self-confidence, reminding us that we are often more capable than we think. Similarly, taking action and pursuing our interests can contribute to a renewed sense of self-motivation. When we recognize that we have the capacity to learn something we thought we couldn’t, we realize that there’s probably even more we can do. Each new thing we learn enhances our confidence, which then motivates us to keep learning. Over time, this blossoms into greater self-confidence. 

3. Helps Us Stay Socially Connected 

Lifelong learning can introduce us to new people and communities that we might not have otherwise come into contact with. For instance, if we sign up for a marketing course, pottery class, or new exercise class, we’re likely to meet new people that we can learn from and build meaningful relationships with. As adults, it can be difficult to form new friendships, but lifelong learning is a great avenue toward that. Plus, social connection is vital for our physical and mental health. In fact, isolation and loneliness are linked to a number of mental and physical health issues, from depression and anxiety to obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Furthermore, interacting with others strengthens our interpersonal skills and other “soft” skills, such communication, compassion, and empathy.

4. Enhances Our Sense of Fulfillment 

Research shows that lifelong learning increases our sense of self-fulfillment, purpose, and life satisfaction. As humans, we have an innate capacity to learn. Exercising our ability to learn can lead to a more rewarding and multidimensional existence. Think about how boring life would be if we only had one skill! Lifelong learning allows us to pursue our passions, explore new interests, and engage in meaningful activities — all of which are essential for happiness and a greater sense of well-being

5. Boosts Our Employability

From a professional and career development perspective, lifelong learning can enhance our employability. According to data, only 25% of hiring managers say job seekers have the skills their company needs. Acquiring new skills can benefit not only our current role, but our future opportunities as well. With rapid advancements in technology and the continuous evolution of industries, it’s important to stay abreast of current trends, innovations, and best practices. Pursuing professional development opportunities and acquiring new skills can better position us to keep our jobs and advance in our career. 

Types of Lifelong Learning

Now that we have a better sense of what lifelong learning is and why it’s so important, we can turn to the different types of lifelong learning available to us. Here are the four main types of lifelong learning:

  • Formal education: Formal education occurs within an organized, structured context with specific learning objectives, often culminating in a degree or certification. This type of learning is typically offered through schools, colleges, or universities. For example, we might get a bachelor’s degree, graduate degree, or professional certification or license in a particular field. Part of the benefit of this type of learning is that it allows us to follow a set schedule and has built-in accountability, as we have to learn the required material in order to “pass.”
  • Informal education: Informal education takes place outside a traditional educational setting and refers to learning experiences that we can acquire in daily life. This type of learning can occur through extracurricular activities, hobbies, and community involvement. For instance, we might participate in a specific club or organization, attend workshops, conferences or seminars, volunteer for a local charity, or engage in recreational activities or hobbies. 
  • Self-directed learning: This type of learning requires taking responsibility for our own learning, setting goals, and choosing the resources and strategies to achieve them. This usually involves a great degree of motivation, discipline, and time management. We can engage in self-directed learning by completing online courses or tutorials, reading books, articles, and research papers, watching videos and documentaries, or joining online forums.
  • Professional learning: This type of learning is geared specifically towards our professional or career development, and it often involves acquiring specific skills through training. For instance, we might attend a workshop or conference sponsored by professional associations, or take a course that helps us develop a certain skill to use in our job. This also might involve reading professional literature, watching YouTube tutorials, or listening to podcasts.

Tips for Pursuing Lifelong Learning

Let’s get practical: how can we go about pursuing lifelong learning in our own lives? We’re incredibly fortunate to live in an era where information is widely accessible. Indeed, the internet has made it easier than ever to pursue lifelong learning (you’re learning something right now!). Between online courses, podcasts, and YouTube, a variety of mediums make it easy to learn and acquire new skills.

Here are 5 steps for adopting lifelong learning in our own life: 

1. Identify personal goals and interests

Lifelong learning looks different for everyone because we all have different interests and goals. Try reflecting on what you’re passionate about and what you want your future to look like. For instance, maybe progressing in your career is most important to you. Or perhaps you’re interested in challenging yourself by learning a new skill or picking up a new hobby. Identifying our interests and goals provides a roadmap for how we can engage in lifelong learning. 

2. Make a list of what you want to learn or be able to do

It can be helpful to make a concrete list of what we want to learn or be able to do. This can include both professional and personal skills. For instance, on the professional side, perhaps we want to learn how to code, use photoshop, or edit videos. On the personal side, perhaps we want to learn to swim, play the guitar, or cook. Try being as specific as possible, as this will help determine how to achieve your goal. 

3. Identify the type of learning and resources to accomplish your goal

Once we have a better understanding of our interests, goals, and skills we’d like to learn, we can identify the resources to get us there. For instance, if we want to develop new professional skills, we can start researching workshops, conferences, or courses that offer training. Or we can opt for a more self-directed approach, turning to YouTube, tutorials, or books. Similarly, if we’re looking to pursue more personal goals like learning how to swim or cook, we might consider researching local clubs, classes, or organizations to join. 

4. Incorporate the learning into your life

Once we’ve identified the available resources, we need to plan how to incorporate the new learning goal into our life. Life can be incredibly busy, and it’s easy to put things off; if we don’t make time and space for learning, it’ll never happen. Creating a concrete, structured plan can make it harder for us to brush it aside. Start by asking how much time you can give to the new learning goal each day, week, or month. For instance, if you’re trying to learn a new language, can you set aside at least 15 minutes a day? Be realistic and start small — you can always add more time as it becomes part of your routine. 

5. Make a commitment 

After developing a plan and setting realistic expectations, stick to it! We know: this is easier said than done. To build in some accountability, tell a friend or loved one your new learning goal. We can also use sticky notes or set reminders on our phone to encourage us along the way. Starting anything new can be hard, but over time, there’s great enjoyment and satisfaction in challenging ourselves and learning new skills. 

The Bottom Line

Lifelong learning is the deliberate, intentional pursuit of knowledge or skills to enhance our personal or professional development. While it can include formal education, it also consists of more informal learning experiences through workshops, conferences, classes, or clubs. Lifelong learning is incredibly beneficial to our overall health and well-being, fighting cognitive decline, increasing our confidence, and boosting our employability. Incorporating intentional learning into our life can do wonders for our well-being!

If you’re stuck in a rut and using alcohol to cope, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption, develop new skills, and enhance their overall well-being. 

Summary FAQs

1. What is lifelong learning?

Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-driven pursuit of knowledge to enhance our personal or professional development. 

2. Why is lifelong learning so important?

Lifelong learning has many benefits, including helping us embrace a growth mindset, keeping us mentally sharp, increasing our self-confidence, connecting us with others, enhancing personal fulfillment, and boosting our employability. 

3. What are the different types of lifelong learning?

Lifelong learning can occur in various settings, such as the workplace, local community, or online. Four main types of lifelong learning include formal education, informal education, self-directed learning, and professional learning. 

4. How can we pursue lifelong learning?

Lifelong learning requires deliberate, intentional effort on our part. We can start by identifying our passions and interests, setting learning goals, choosing the appropriate resources, and setting aside time to work toward them. 

Start Your Lifelong Learning Journey With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

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You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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