We have a passion for education around here at Grasshopper Goods, and I guess that all starts with my background in the field. I’ve spent years working in education, first with special education students in underrepresented communities and, today, as a tenured professor teaching teachers. Though I have a storied history with traditional education, I also believe in the idea that education happens in day to day life, that some of the greatest lessons we learn come to us from beyond the classroom.
I’ve taken that perspective with me throughout each stage of my life, and consider myself to be a lifelong learner. From travel to personal development, I regularly look for opportunities to gain a new skill or piece of knowledge. As long as we’re learning, we’re growing, in my opinion.
Along the way, I’ve implemented a few key habits that have helped me continue my journey as a lifelong learner. Today, I wanted to share just a few with you to get you started.
5 Habits to Become a Lifelong Learner
Understand your learning style and seek out the relevant mediums
First and foremost, it’s important to understand how you learn best. If you aren’t able to identify your learning style and utilize mediums that support your strengths, you’ll have a hard time maintaining a learner’s mentality throughout your life. I’m a visual learner, personally, which means that I need to see information in order to process it. Reading information or seeing it displayed in graphics or charts is helpful to me. I didn’t realize until graduate school that the reason I prefer visual learning is that I am dyslexic. That’s also why I enjoy co-constructing knowledge, since social emotional learning is also important to me. For others, a podcast may be more helpful, or the opportunity to learn through an experience or active exploration.
Start your day with education
Using your preferred medium, try to consume new information each day. We live in a world that has an overwhelming amount of information, and I wouldn’t recommend spending hours upon hours trying to gather and understand it all. Set aside dedicated time for your consumption, and limit yourself so that you don’t fall into a rabbit hole, particularly on social media. I like to use my mornings for soul filling reading, which allows me to set the tone for the day. Starting the day with that personal growth and gratitude forces me to look forward instead of getting caught in the details of the present.
Engage in discussion about issues you’re interested in - and those you aren’t
Talking through a new topic can actually help you see it from a new angle, or gain new information in the process. Call up a family member to discuss something that you learned about today, or set up regular walks with friends (like I did!) to hash out topics you normally don’t touch on. In my case, the friends I walk with are in my field, so we’ve been focusing on cultural humility. You’ll be exposed to new subjects, and become a more comprehensive thinker through these exercises.
Reflect on what you’ve learned
In addition to talking it out with people you trust, self-reflection is a great way to drive home a recently-learned concept. Ask yourself questions about a new concept and free-write your responses. You may come upon roadblocks that will force you to do a bit more research before you’re able to come to a conclusion. This snowball effect is a cornerstone of becoming a lifelong learner.
Join or follow organizations that you’re inspired by
Seeking out others who share your interests is a great way to open up the door to new thoughts and opinions that you haven’t yet come into contact with. You already know that you have something in common with the other members, so it’s likely that the conversations you have within these organizations will be fulfilling. You can look for professional organizations that are related to your field (like my involvement with IVLA), or completely outside of your typical scope. That’s the beauty of seeking out knowledge - it’s a process, and even the wrong turns can lead you to a lesson worth learning.
Finally, if you’re busy scrolling or binge-watching, you likely won’t find the time to learn something new or significant. Sure, there is educational programming, and some social media accounts are created to educate an audience, unless you’ve specifically curated your consumption habits to be geared toward learning, you’re probably just using the time to zone out. That’s important too, but penciling in time for dedicated, unplugged activities like exercise, social engagements, and meditation can have a powerful effect on your openness to new ideas.
Becoming a lifelong learner isn’t a journey that has a finish line. It’s borne out of the continuous decision to take something new from the world each day, to analyze it instead of taking it at face value, and then digging in deeper when it sparks something within you. Traditional education is just one piece of the puzzle. Having insatiable curiosity will take you to the next level.