You want more of it. Badly. Sleep. But you force yourself out of bed. The mornings get to you. Everything is disorderly, the shirt you want to wear isn’t ironed, and everyone is edgy. Somehow, you finish your daily routine and leave for work – sometimes after fighting with your partner, or scolding your child, or without eating breakfast.
Office is no better than the commute. The same dull meetings, the politics, the mundane work, the water cooler gossip, waiting for your boss to leave for the day so you can go home. Evenings, whatever are left of them, are as boring. You watch television, or downloaded series, or look for something to outrage over on social media.
On weekends, you sleep for longer. You wake up late, wonder how to pass the day you looked forward to, and sleep again. You watch movies, visit the mall, hang out with friends, or complete pending household chores.
By Sunday afternoon, you’re experiencing Monday Blues already. And Monday is still more than twelve hours away.
That’s okay. When you’re more successful, when you have more time, you will live life. But as you grow old, you wonder where life went. Then you realize something. It hits you. Hard!
Those moments when you did things you didn’t enjoy – That was life! It passed you by. You didn’t glance at it a second time. And now, you will give anything to live it ‘the right way’ again.
It sounds frightening, right? Yet, that’s how billions of people have lived, and continue to do so.
I’m guessing the answer to each question is no. Yet, in your mind, you fear that this might become a reality.
But there is another way. You can enjoy a life where you look forward to something new, not every day, but definitely every week or month. Rather than retiring, you can work beyond the age of sixty five, and not feel like you’re working. You can be healthy and happy regardless of your age. Starting today, you can develop the self confidence to live on your terms. You can create the life you love, today.
All it takes is a tiny shift in mindset. The shift from being close minded to becoming a lifelong learner.
Look around you. The happiest individuals are lifelong learners. People love listening to their stories. Laughter follows them like a faithful pet. They often do interesting things. Regardless of age, they are independent, loved, and happy.
What is lifelong learning? LLCQ Inc. defines it as:
“learning that is pursued throughout life: learning that is flexible, diverse and available at different times and in different places.”
Being a lifelong learner offers many benefits. According to the European Commission, it has four broad and mutually supporting objectives: personal fulfillment, active citizenship, social inclusion and employability/adaptability.
Lifelong learning puts you on the path of consistent self improvement, instills creativity and makes you more adaptable. Fast Company states that adaptability is the most significant trait to progress in today’s world. By being a lifelong learner, you:
- Become creative
- Manage uncertainty
- Negotiate conflicts and communicate better
- Develop self confidence
- Enhance your ability to earn more
- Educate yourself to develop your mind, body, intelligence, sensitivity and spirituality (Delors’ – 1996)
Sold on the benefits? That’s great! Here are 8 tips for being a lifelong learner and leading an interesting life:
1. The Five-Hour Rule
At the age of 10, Benjamin Franklin left formal schooling. When he died at 85, he was America’s most respected statesman, a prolific author and inventor, and a successful entrepreneur. Now that was a life lived to its fullest!
The reason behind this spectacular rise was? Franklin dedicated an hour a day to deliberate learning. This hour comprised of reading and writing, setting personal goals and tracking results, reflecting, creating a club for like-minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen, and turning his ideas into experiments.
Michael Simmons calls this the Five-Hour rule. You can apply this to your life too. Dedicate one hour on weekdays, or five hours each week, to learning and self improvement. During these five hours:
- Read – Choose a topic, and read. Remarkable platforms like Twitter, Medium, Flipboard and StumbleUpon will expose you to insights which will broaden your perspective.
- Go deeper into problems – Our instinct is to jump in to solve problems as soon as they arise. A better approach is to take time and view the problem objectively.
Don’t sweep the problem under the rug, but don’t look for instant solutions either. Get to it’s root.
- Write your ideas – Just reading means that you will soon forget your ideas. Write them down. If you don’t want to carry a diary, use Evernote. Read your ideas once a week. You can never tell when inspiration will strike and you will do something remarkable.
2. Try New Experiences
Fear of the unknown is the biggest obstacle to lifelong learning. Opening your mind to new things makes you uncomfortable because, by definition, it’s unfamiliar.
So much happens outside your comfort zone. Just go there. – Maggie Peikon (Wanderlust)
Read. Write. Travel to lesser known locations. Attend music concerts and sporting games. Meet people you don’t know well. Pursue a hobby.
Novel experiences don’t just make you feel happier and refreshed. They also motivate you to do something constructive. Plus, trying something new is a huge boost for your self confidence.
Expose yourself to something new every now and then. That way, you will look forward to after-work hours and weekends. You will invest time in wise learning instead of watching movies which make less sense than a new-born’s words.
3. Don’t Underestimate Yourself
In a thought-provoking article, Elizabeth Gilbert writes that people often tell her that they don’t have a single creative bone in their body. Instead of challenging them, which could lead to resistance, she merely asks them to replace ‘creative’ with ‘curious’. The new statement sounds weird. Try it yourself. Say, “I don’t have a single curious bone in my body.” Do you agree with it?
Contrary to the lies society feeds you, creativity is not unique to an elite set of people. It is unique to the curious ones.
Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t just a renowned painter. He was a sculptor, an engineer, an anatomist and more. His core skill and greatest asset was observation. All his professions and skills stemmed from it. Yours can too. Just stop believing that creativity is not your cup of coffee.
Be curious about what you observe. Ask questions. If you’re shy to ask them openly, start with Google. Or post your questions on Quora. Trust me, hundreds of people have the same questions as you. Read stuff online. Curiosity will enable you to build self confidence and lead an interesting life.
4. Get Good Sleep
Lack of sleep contributes to our stress today. Yet, we neglect it. When you expose yourself to electronic screens for long, the infrared rays harm you. Shockingly, a sleep deprivation study proved that even six hours of sleep is not enough.
Stress is one of the prime reasons we humans don’t step outside our comfort zone, even if we want to. We’re simply exhausted – mentally, emotionally, and physically. So give your mind the rest it needs. Shut your computer screens down and put away your mobile phones after ten at night.
5. Take Time Off
Logging in numerous hours at work, wearing multiple hats, and being seen as a ‘work martyr’ is glorified today. According to a new survey, 43 percent Millennials proudly think of themselves as work martyrs. We forfeit unused vacation days, ‘obsess’ about work, and think that nobody can do the work we can. Secretly though, we harbor the fear of missing out. And we want to be seen as hard workers. After all, the road to success is consistent hard work, right?
The truth, dear friend, couldn’t be farther. Joe Robinson explains:
“Continuous time on-task sets off strain reactions, such as stress, fatigue and negative mood, which drain focus and physical and emotional resources. The brain’s ability to self-regulate–to stay disciplined–wanes with each exercise of self-control during the day. It’s a loss of resources that must be replenished, or it becomes harder to stay on-task, be attentive and solve problems.”
Take a step back. It’s okay to give your mind time off. In fact, your mind craves for it. Life is long. You want to enjoy it completely, not burn out early.
If you can’t take a day off now, just start playing with kids. Playing with them for ten minutes is more refreshing than an hour on social media.
If you are a startup founder or business owner, take more time off. This opposes conventional wisdom, right? But it makes you work smarter. Also, according to Neil Patel, it makes your business independent enough to work without you. Isn’t that awesome?
6. Don’t be a Bedroom Genius
I still struggle with this. EVERY DAY.
I’ve built and scaled five products. They have satisfied thousands of users and have sold for millions. There’s just one tiny problem. All this has happened in my head.
Jory McKay writes:
“We may see creativity as an individual trait – something that we do on our own – but real creativity depends on a community of likeminded people……… Real creativity is innovative. It’s disruptive. It challenges and changes the way we think about established ideas. But to get to that point, you need feedback. You need criticism.”
Making things up in your bedroom doesn’t count as lifelong learning (I’m saying this more to myself). Your idea could be unique. But validation in the field determines its feasibility.
Take feedback. It will help you learn different perspectives about your ideas and refine them. Plus meeting new people will further help you build self confidence. But choose whom you approach carefully.
7. Stop Worrying About People
Yes, it’s easier said than done. But it also makes you a lifelong learner.
People’s memory is as fleeting as today’s outrage. Tomorrow, they will pick someone else to find fault with. Like street dogs chasing different cars, they will find something new to snigger about.
Stop worrying over what others think. Do what you want anyway. Not only will this make you a lifelong learner, but it will also increase respect for you in others’ eyes. Because you will be someone they want to be, but don’t have the courage to be.
8. Fall in Love with Practice
When something new interests us, it’s like the shiny new toy a toddler wants. But with time, it becomes monotonous. That’s when, like the toddler, most of us look for the next shiny new toy. Then along comes someone who achieves what we dreamed of. And we ruminate over what could have been.
When you become good at something, it becomes boring. I know. I feel like that too. But successful people aren’t ‘naturals’. If only raw talent mattered,’naturals’ would dominate the elite level with fewer practice hours. But data shows otherwise. Psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement.
The ‘talented’ elite don’t just work harder than you and me. At a certain point, they fall in love with the work. So much that they want to do little else. Think of Usain Bolt, Joanne Rowling, Maria Popova… or of course, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Enjoy the activity, not the result. When you start something, enjoy working on it till the point of automation. Then take yourself to the next level, and enjoy that work. Keep learning, keep working. After a few years, you will be a different person. And people will wonder where you appeared from.
But don’t do it for reverence, or accolades. Do it for love. Enjoy it. Enjoy the boredom when it sets it. Don’t give up. This is an unmistakable trait of a lifelong learner.
Society has condemned lifelong learning since civilization existed. Yet, humanity owes all its progress to lifelong learners. Without them, we would still eat raw meat and worship fire. Successful people choose to break free, feed their thirst for learning, and are always curious. They achieve so much that people think of them as super human.
But they are not. They are lifelong learners, coupled with love for what they do.
You can do it too. You can create the life you love. Today. Happiness doesn’t mean retiring early. Life doesn’t lie in the future or the past. It is now. Live it to the fullest. Keep learning. You only live once, right? Make it count.