Back to School: The Benefits of Life-Long Learning

“Great things happen to those who don't stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful.”
― Roy T. Bennett

There is no shortage of great, inspirational quotes you could pin in your line of sight to motivate you to move toward your goals. Few, however, sum up the secret to success quite as well as the above quote from author Roy T. Bennett. If you want to reach – or even better, exceed! – your goals, you’ve got to believe. You’ve got to continue to push forward and try. You’ve got to keep learning. You must be grateful. These are all important facets of success, but today, let’s focus on continued learning.

For those of you counting, I earned a Master’s Degree in Administrative Science and Global Leadership at 50 from Fairleigh Dickinson University; graduated from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC) at 51, and I’ll be graduating from Institute for Integrated Nutrition as a Health Coach at 52. I am done for the moment with matriculated-style learning, but I will always be in learning mode. Here’s why you should be, too.

You’ll Be Happier

How do you feel when you conquer a challenge? Satisfied. Proud. Accomplished. Pleased. Maybe you’d even go as far as to use words like: elated, empowered, and energized. The very essence of learning something new is setting a goal to achieve some measure of competence at something that you don’t know or can’t do today. It’s setting a goal for yourself such as, “I will learn JavaScript well enough to add functional forms to my website on my own.” And then it’s reaching that goal. Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine the way you’re going to feel the first time you refresh your homepage and see a functional, attractive form that YOU created.

You’ll Kick the Box Over

When you’ve achieved some measure of success, it can be easy to fall into the habit of repeating what’s worked before. Even if those old stand-by approaches are working, there may be something else that could work even better. Taking classes, attending seminars and workshops (in person or online!), reading articles, and joining conversations with your peers in networking forums can open your eyes to new opportunities. You won’t just stretch outside the proverbial box; you could kick it over and break totally free from it. Continued learning gets our creative juices percolating.

You’ll Be Healthier

We know exercise can have a positive impact on our physical health and wellness. Our brains need a workout, too. In this 2016 article from Harvard Health Publishing, Dr. Ipsit Vahia says, “New brain cell growth can happen even late into adulthood. The process of learning and acquiring new information and experiences, like through structured classes, can stimulate that process.” The research supports Dr. Vahia’s statements. Studies have shown that learning new languages, solving complex puzzles, mastering new hobbies, and tackling other forms of cognitive calisthenics may slow age-related cognitive decline.

You’ll Be a Better Teacher / Leader

If you want your team to develop a habit of adding to their skills and abilities, start by setting the example. When you make learning a priority for yourself, it will inspire others around you to do the same. Imagine the big things that will happen when you’ve cultivated a culture of personal and professional growth!

You’ll Have Fun

Let’s be clear: Every learning opportunity you pursue does not have to be focused on your career. Take a class in watercolors, learn to play piano, take a class in ballroom dancing, or sign up for taekwondo. Stretching and mastering (or at least attempting!) new skills in any arena will benefit you personally and professionally. A class in stain glass making can spark stagnant creativity. A karate class can help you learn to focus. A cooking class may be just the distraction you need after a long day in the office. You’ll feel the tension slip from your shoulders while you learn to perfect a souffle. Give it a try.