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The importance of lifelong learning to your success

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The importance of lifelong learning

Unlike Learning Ninjas some people underestimate the importance of lifelong learning. But it has great benefits.

Especially in this fast-paced, ever-evolving world.

But above all, being a lifelong learner is a state of mind, an “art de vivre” that determines how we live our lives.

Who doesn’t admire intellectually vibrant and inspiring people?

Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated”[1] pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.

Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability.Wikipedia

Lifelong learners have a specific mindset. This is good for your soul and your health.

It means you’re curious, open to new things, forever hungry for more.
Always looking for new inspiration and knowledge, hunting for more wisdom.

5 benefits lifelong learning offers you:

  • Continually training your brain cells helps keeping your brain in shape, so to speak. That’s beneficial for your memory, mental health, and stress levels
  • You can meet and engage with like-minded people. This keeps you connected to others and broadens your horizon
  • Learning will boost your self-confidence. Imagine how much better you’d feel if you knew what your colleagues or friends are talking about…
  • You can be a role model for others
  • It’s never been easier to learn. There are (free) tutorials and classes on pretty much anything, on your own time. This can help advance your career as well
Importance of lifelong learning

Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Standford psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D. argues that there are 2 kinds of people (even if there are several well-known learning models).

One group naturally believes in the importance of lifelong learning while the other group doesn’t.

There are people with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset.
You probably can’t imagine what goes on in the heads of fixed mindset people.

How can anyone believe that they can’t evolve?
Or prefer to “stay the same”, so that they won’t make a mistake (while learning something new)?

Okay, maybe now you’re thinking “Wait! I don’t want to feel like an idiot because I said something wrong in front of everybody either.”

No one likes that. But there’s a difference.

Apparently, these mindsets are determined at a very young age and influence the rest of our lives accordingly.

Naturally, lifelong learners must be in the “growth mindset”-category, but I’ll let you come to our own conclusion…

So what are the 2 types?

For a “fixed mindset” person, their character, intelligence, and creative ability are static and can’t change in any meaningful way.

People with this mindset are more interested in looking smart than in becoming smarter. They live for outside approval and avoid failure at all costs.

A “growth mindset” person, for example, thrives on challenges and sees the importance of lifelong learning. It comes natural to them.

Failure is not proof of unintelligence. It’s an opportunity for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.

Failure is a harsh word anyway. Making mistakes is a normal process of learning.
It doesn’t mean you’re “failing”.

The importance of lifelong learning: Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Growth mindset people believe that you can’t know a person’s true potential.
It’s impossible to predict what can be accomplished with years of passion, dedication, and training.

So, they are natural learning ninjas.

People are not limited by some sort of predetermined fate, although this doesn’t mean that anyone can be and do anything.

After all, we naturally are better at some things than at others (bye, bye Chemistry).

Growth mindset people are passionate about learning.
Fixed mindset people are hungry for approval and see mistakes as failure.

They don’t want to risk looking stupid, so they keep doing things they already know how to do.

And they surround themselves with people who make them feel smart, instead of impressive people who would challenge them to grow.

The mind gets set early on

At 4 years old, children already show one of these two mentalities.
In one of Dweck’s studies, the kids had the choice between redoing an easy jigsaw puzzle, or trying a harder one.

Those with a “fixed” mindset chose the easy puzzle which they knew they could complete – and avoid failure.

When you have this mentality, you won’t care much about the importance of lifelong learning.

A group of people making a puzzle together

The kids with a “growth” mentality couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do the same puzzle again.

They picked the harder puzzles because they liked the challenge and wanted to learn something new.

It’s pretty clear that lifelong learners are in the growth mindset category. Learning ninjas take risks, we put ourselves out there, and we’re always looking for ways to improve.

But as we just saw with the growth vs. fixed mindset, not everyone believes in learning new things.
Which brings us to the next section…

The Dunning-Kruger effect

Right now, you’re probably asking yourself what the heck the Dunning-Kruger effect is.
It sounds serious enough… Is it affecting you?

Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure it’s not. I had never heard about it either, until it came up in my LinkedIn feed a while ago.

This is the Wikipedia definition:

“In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.

The cognitive bias of illusory superiority comes from the inability of low-ability people to recognize their lack of ability.”

Now that was quite a mouthful.
Basically it means that people overestimate how good they are at something – because they have no idea just how much they don’t know about the topic.

They don’t think about the importance of lifelong learning because they don’t know they need to evolve.

Chess board for lifelong learners

The Dunning-Kruger effect at work

Let’s say you use Microsoft Word to write a proposal.
You never had any Microsoft Office training and didn’t watch or read online tutorials either.

After a full day of sweat and tears, your proposal is finally ready and looking good.
You’re pretty proud of yourself and add “Word-slayer” to your resume (CV).

What you don’t know though, is that it would have taken a real pro about 10 minutes to format your pages which took you 15 hours.

Because you have no idea that there are shortcuts, commands and lots of other stuff that can speed things up like crazy.

Apparently, this happens more often in IT where people write code and it’s working – so they think they are awesome.

But in reality, the person is pretty slow and the code is quite messy and not up-to-date…

They overstimate their skills

So the Dunning-Kruger effect means that people think they are good or even exceptional, although they are far from it.
Naturally, they don’t believe in the importance of lifelong learning.

When we don’t know much about a topic, we are easily impressed by others. Sometimes even by ourselves, it seems.

Ever had this colleague who seemed to know a lot until you learned a few things about that topic yourself – and found out he isn’t that impressive after all?

As a lifelong learner, I can’t imagine we would be afflicted by this though.
Our basic mindset is that there is still so much more to learn, to improve, to know.

We probably rather underestimate how good we are.
There surely is a study about this, too, somewhere.

The importance of lifelong learning

Lifelong learning rocks, because we constantly challenge ourselves.
No “fixed mindset” or Dunning-Kruger effect for us, please.

Learning is our passion and we can’t imagine a life without it.
We strive for better versions of ourselves and we do this all in a positive way.

As I said in the beginning, being a learning ninja is a state of mind.
We understand the importance of lifelong learning.

It’s not a compulsion based on self-esteem issues.
We love to learn, and that’s good for our heart and soul.
And what’s good for our soul, is also good for our health.

Learning new things gives us a sense of purpose and makes us happy.
And even more so, when we can share what we learned with others.

So keep learning and sharing, so that we all can benefit from it.

Idea light bulb

Our brain is an awesome tool with an amazing capacity. You can totally supercharge it.

Combined with our hearts, we can inspire ourselves and the people around us.
Never stop learning. And check out this post to discover your learning style.

I hope you see the importance of lifelong learning. It can also have the beneficial side-effect of advancing your career.

Who doesn’t appreciate completely committed people who dedicate their heart and soul willingly to always doing the best job ever?

Let’s rock!

Improve yourself. Improve your life!

Were you just as surprised to hear about the Dunning-Kruger effect?
Or was there anything else in this article that caught your attention?

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