- Lifelong learning is simply learning throughout your life.
- We learn by observation, “trial and error”, imitation, and seeking advice.
- There are numerous factors that make it hard to learn. Some include a lack of interest, lack of resources, lack of mental capacity, an unconducive learning environment, and so on.
- Learning is not always meaningful, or helpful, nor does it always lead to a positive change in behavior
- We need Wisdom to think, feel, and act in the right way, despite what we learn.
- Lifelong learning helps you function optimally in life.
- Learning is not always conscious.
- Lifelong learning brings about a happy and meaningful life.
What Is Learning?
Learning is the process of accumulating sufficient data from a given pattern, to describe or predict (to some degree) a future event or action. And learning is verified when a certain pattern can be (at least, partly) described or predicted by the learner. This means learning gives the learner the capacity to prepare for, handle, and, in some cases, trigger future outcomes.
In simple terms, learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, or skills through experiences, instruction, or study. This is because learning updates your internal schema, model, or picture of the concrete or abstract world, which enables you to interact with (or, at least, understand) the world – usually in a new and meaningful way. (lifelong learning is simply doing this for the rest of your life).
Also Read: What Is The Truth?
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What Are The Ways We Learn?
Imagine you put a dozen people in a maze and informed them that they will each get a million-dollar reward if they could find their way out. These people may decide to employ a number of tools and techniques to learn how to make it out. They may choose to
- Observe the environment looking for hints,
- Use trial and error by moving about the maze with no clue,
- Follow or imitate others (who they believe know better), or
- Seek instructions from those who have made it out (if such people exist).
Of course, this maze could be any area of your life. You can be seeking to learn how to prepare jollof rice, make money, find love, or solve a quadratic equation. And, as these examples suggest, the maze could be concrete (like cooking), and it can be abstract (like solving quadratic equations). This means, not all mazes are equal – some are more difficult to learn – understand, predict, or come out of – than others.
Why Is It Hard To Learn?
People can find learning difficult because they
- lack interest
- don’t have access to learning resources
- aren’t in the right (or a conducive) learning environment
- lack the mental capacity (mostly in the case of problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making)
- lack the physical capacity (mostly in the case of motor skills)
And so on
Besides, not everything is easy to learn – i.e. some things are inherently hard to learn. For example, abstract concepts (like math equations, feelings, or philosophical theories) are harder to describe or understand because they
- are not palpable, concrete, or directly observable,
- require high levels of thinking – mental abstractions and conceptualization – to be understood,
- often involve a lot of interconnected and interdependent parts/systems/concepts, and
- a lot of specialized and abstract language to be described or communicated. This means,
- an individual must first learn the language, then the multiple fundamental and interconnected concepts before attempting to dabble into more advanced and useful ones.
- All of these take time and a lot of effort.
- Worse, even those who learn these abstract concepts often find it difficult to implement in the real world.
And that is why not so many people bother.
Also Read: How To Cultivate The Habit of Reading
Dangers/Disadvantages of Learning:
On top of all these, learning is not always meaningful, and helpful, nor does it always cause a positive change in behavior. In fact, learning can be meaningless, unhelpful, and disempowering.
Imagine learning that there was no exit from the maze or no reward for escaping the maze. Such realization may cause chaos, violence, or worse.
It is not hard to notice many people
- get bitter, angry, and even violent when they don’t get paid for a job or can’t figure out how to get rich,
- get disgruntled, nihilistic, and even cynical when they learn their religion (and the accompanying eternal reward) was a lie,
- riot, migrate, and even start wars when they learn their votes are not considered,
- become fearful, regretful, and anxious when they learn they will die (soon),
- surrender to, tend to and even protect their abusers when they learn there is nothing they can do to escape or stop the abuse. (This is known as Stockholm syndrome).
And so on.
The Importance of Wisdom in Learning:
Despite learning having both negative and positive aspects (as with almost everything in life), it takes wisdom to still think, feel, and act in a meaningful, helpful, and good way.
For example, you could learn about the benefits and risks of sky diving, starting a business, getting married, and so on, and still decide whether to do them (or not). Even though learning gives you the capacity to act, it takes wisdom to act.
“And this is what wisdom is: It’s the ability to allow a diversity of values and thoughts to emerge within your own mind, yet still be able to act despite them.”– Mark Manson.
Imagine the unhappiness and chaos that may blanket the maze with no exit (or reward after exit). Whilst understandable, it is still not a wise course of action to fan the flames of pain – it is not the right way to internalize or utilize the knowledge.
A wise cause of action can be saying, “perhaps we should try to create a sort of meaning/reward and happiness/exit within this maze. We shouldn’t despise being here, but learn to love our fate (because the alternative is hell).”
Of course, this is not a wisdom I synthesized. It is more or less the conclusion anyone with any sense arrives at. Nietzsche calls it “Amor Fati”. Capitalists call it “Entrepreneurship (aka Solving Problems)”. Religious people call it, “The Fear of God”. And there are more ways to arrive at the conclusion – i.e. that it will behoove everyone to live in peace with one another. And, more than that, to strive to ameliorate the suffering around them.
In fact, the world has gotten so good at solving this fundamental problem that hardly most people learn how meaningless and hopeless the condition of humanity is. From our shared mortality to being lost in the cold dark mind-boggling vastness of space, the only reward humans enjoy in this life is the work of their hands, and the only escape is death.
“I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life that God has given them.”– King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 5:18)
The Importance of Lifelong Learning:
Having understood what learning is and how wisdom is critical for functioning, the importance of lifelong learning is self-evident: to keep functioning optimally, we must keep learning – by observing, testing, and listening to feedback and advice – about the world we find ourselves in.
To clarify, there are two main reasons why lifelong learning is important:
- To help you achieve your goals: It is often the case that your objectives – be it wealth, health, happiness, or something else – are hidden behind a wall of ignorance. In other words, “learning” is how you overcome the obstacles standing between you and what you want. As Naval Ravikant puts it, “The only real test of intelligence is if you get what you want out of life.”
- To help you change your goals: It is also the case that sometimes our objectives are illusionary, unattainable, or not worth it. In this case, you should adjust your aim, views, or behavior; all of which are products of learning.
There Is Wisdom In Your Body:
Most people imagine learning to be only intellectual and conscious, but this is naive. In fact, the most important parts of learning are subconscious and in the body.
For millions of years, every living thing on earth (including humans) has been learning from the world; and has evolved to function optimally in the world (within their ecological niches).
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”― Friedrich Nietzsche
Your body does not conceptualize what is going on in the world. It interacts with the real world directly.
- It prepares and responds in any/every circumstance – even if you’re not consciously aware of when or how. (From blinking to gut feelings, more often than not, it knows better)
- It knows when you are succeeding or failing. Your health – physical, mental, emotional, etc.- all testify to the reality of what is happening to you.
Knowing much more than your conscious mind, the body suggests what to do (or not to do). And, that is why it is wise to listen to it.
Perhaps you’re starving, edgy, sick, or injured. Perhaps there are some data, in reality, you’re not paying attention to – you’re not learning – or maybe you’re paying attention – but haven’t learned.
Whatever the case, it is important to know that your idea of success is mostly based on ideas the media has fed you. A job, a big house, money, and so on. They are more or less irrelevant to the (wise) body.
The body knows what true success is. And it will not fail to inform you when you fail – even whilst having a job, house, or money.
Learning is the key to protecting and improving life (and this holds true for humans down to unicellular organisms).
Every living thing learns from the stimuli from its ever-changing environment – be it temperature, pressure, alkalinity, and so on. And how the organism responds to the stimuli is often the difference between life and death. In humans, we often sense the stimuli as pain (or its alleviation). From physical injury to emotional turmoil, the pain is teaching and you should learn.
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”– Oprah Winfrey
Conclusion: Learn To Improve Your Life
My idea of a good life is not mere material. Sure, we need some material things to take care of ourselves. But, I know it’s insanity to sacrifice too much of my
- experiences, and
- overall happiness
in pursuit of money, fame, power, or some other external thing.
It takes some people a lifetime to realize this. Some never do. But if you are reading this, I hope you can.
And, I hope you keep learning ways to improve your life (your body, mind, and soul). I hope you take lifelong learning seriously.
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I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.