The Value of Life-long Learning

10 months ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

In light of the global fitness revolution, quite a few experts have emerged to emphasize the notion of boosting our physical and mental health through exercise. Simultaneously, many have pointed out that our cognitive capacity to absorb new knowledge and skills is growing in importance, because our mind muscle requires stimulation to flourish.

To that end, many people such as Sir Ken Richardson propose an organic, not linear, system of learning, which would encompass a multitude of human talents. While we’re waiting for an educational system that allows such intellectual progress, we can enhance our lives with a whole range of activities that let us exercise our brain, and offer numerous benefits to our existence.

A meaningful life

As one of the most elusive and never answered questions, the meaning of life is a perpetually changing notion, and each of us needs to define on our own. Formal education aside, your interests and hobbies can give your life a wealth of meaning, especially if you habitually chase new ideas and try new activities.

Practicing a new skill, such as origami, or learning a new dance, can lend you a wide spectrum of expressive abilities, improve your communication with others and give a profound sense of meaning to the time you dedicate perfecting those skills, as well as your identity. The more you learn, the richer, more meaningful your life can become, and the more you have to pass on to others.

A more open-minded attitude

You’ve probably met that one person with rigid beliefs that no reasonable argument could possibly penetrate. It’s those people who fail to open their minds to new concepts, while those who allow for their perception to be challenged become more adaptive and flexible. With new knowledge comes the ability to grasp more complex concepts, which sharpens your thinking and lets you gain a better understanding of the world through new perspectives.

Learning a new language, or just a few phrases, can open up a whole new realm of cultural understanding. For instance, in the language of Yagan (Chile and Argentina), mamihlapinatapai is a word that embodies the look shared between two people who wish but hesitate to initiate something, such as a kiss. Doesn’t this single notion stir your imagination and make you wonder about our primary method of communication?


Resilient memory

Anything from reading the newspaper about the latest events to mastering a new knitting technique classifies as learning, and it keeps your brain on its toes, ready and alert. But if you keep your skills versatile as well as your diet, you have all the more chances of keeping your brain sharp for decades to come.

Everyday chores such as memorizing grocery lists, or more complex skills such as chess, let your brain create new connections and pathways, while multi-sensory activities such as cooking a new dish involve several segments of your brain. Try to learn a few chords on the guitar or the piano, and you’ll create full-blown fireworks of activity in your brain. Whatever your preference may be, the longer you practice and learn, the greater the benefits for your memory.

Improved wellbeing

Problem solving and decision making are never easy tasks, no matter your age or education, yet when you constantly challenge yourself, you become better at finding more effective solutions in less time. However, thinking on your feet should be a part of both the cognitive and the physical. Versatile learning on both fronts also helps prevent degenerative diseases such as dementia, and it boosts neurogenesis, or the brain’s ability to form new neurons.

This means that physical activities, especially those that challenge your cardiovascular capacity and coordination, are equally important in keeping your brain and your body fit. For example, if you learn new stunts by and ride cruiser skateboards, you’re not only burning calories, but also enhancing your balance, coordination, flexibility and split-second reactions.

Broadening your social horizons

Although there is no doubt that learning via apps and attending courses online are invaluable, when you join a club in order to learn a new skill, your world instantly becomes wealthier by a whole new crowd of people who share your interests.

In addition to making new friends, lifelong companions or even spouses, getting out of your comfort zone by joining a new group lets you meet plenty of interesting, like-minded people who can leave an indelible mark on your life.

New opportunities

Few of us are lucky enough to know precisely what we want to become in life, and many of us change this idea many times, even after our formal education. Defining your professional purpose and finding a job that resonates with your passion as well as your talents is an uphill battle, and limiting yourself to a few choices can leave you in the dark about your true aptitudes.

The more you explore, the greater sense of direction you can create, and if you let go of the idea of linear progress, you can branch out in many directions while choosing a few dominant ones. This can open up doors and create both personal and business opportunities anywhere you go.

Learning is both an introspective attitude and a journey of discovering others and the world. With all of its perks for our physical and mental wellbeing, the process of learning should be a way of living, and not an isolated effort towards betterment in separate segments of our existence.

As we walk through life, everything we learn and embrace can help us not only have a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, but also shape the world into a better, more enlightened place.

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