Today, interest in lifelong learning spans many professions, from scholars and businesspeople to doctors and lawyers. However, the benefits of lifelong learning far surpass mere career advantages, having positive personal impact as well. After all, learning is learning, no matter the topic – and continuing education can touch on any subject. So, it only makes sense to suggest all people are lifelong learners to one degree or another. In essence, professionals don’t have a monopoly on the matter, nor do educators.
Searching the web, one might discover several kinds of lofty definitions for lifelong learning. But in reality, the term seems fairly simple. At its core, lifelong learning is the drive to never stop growing in knowledge, far after school, even after a lengthy career. Some might do this through formal, educational courses. Others might simply invest in a new skill through online tutorials and practice. The different methods don’t matter so much as the fact that a person is striving to better understand a specific topic.
Sometimes, this kind of ongoing education happens innately. People aren’t always aware that they’re learning something new. After all, the only individuals who stop learning are those who stop living. But self-motivation is key to genuine lifelong learning.
Different Methods of Lifelong Learning
In some ways, the mediums for ongoing education almost seem to rival the number of subjects themselves. And this isn’t simply a modern innovation – different learning methods have existed for centuries if not millennia. Historically, people could learn new skills by apprenticing themselves to an expert. Alternatively, they could read a book to gain knowledge, so long as they were literate. Others might have studied under great thinkers at academies like Aristotle’s Lyceum near Athens.
Contemporarily, many of the same paths are still open to learners, with the addition of several new mediums. For example, the internet makes it possible to find answers at the click of a button, although factuality might be questionable. There are online courses, where people can learn from experts the world over. Even mediums like YouTube provide a platform for those with some sort of skill or knowledge to pass it on to others.
The point is, lifelong learning doesn’t simply mean taking university courses indefinitely. It’s the purposeful pursuit of knowledge, and that can happen in many different ways. No matter the path forward, many of the same benefits of lifelong learning still apply.
The Core Benefits of Lifelong Learning
1. Increased self-motivation
When it comes to the various benefits of lifelong learning, motivation is a sort of fortuitous circle. Essentially, ongoing education requires strong self-motivation but can simultaneously increase it as well. So, it forms a cycle that seems to feed into itself. The more a person motivates themselves to learn, the more self-motivation they’ll build as a result of gaining new skills and knowledge. Thus, the wheel turns again and again. After learning one thing, they’ll find more intrinsic reason to move on to another. So, once someone starts learning, they’ll pick up traction and propel forward from one thing to the next more easily.
In that sense, self-motivation might be the very key to lifelong learning. Without it, a person’s will to grow can stagnate – they could fall behind or give up entirely. Strange as it may seem, self-motivation represents both a requirement and a benefit of lifelong learning. So, sometimes the best thing for someone lacking motivation is simply to jump in. After all, when they find the right topic, self-motivation won’t be difficult to find.
2. Creating new goals and drives
Ultimately, learning about an interesting subject opens up paths to other fascinating topics. For example, an interest in the lore of Star Wars might lead someone to learn core principles of worldbuilding. This, in turn, might inspire them to write their own novel or create a film. The point is, lifelong learning presents an opportunity to dive into new subjects that relate to those someone already holds close. And as people find new interests, they also develop new goals and driving motivators. Again, this goes directly back to one of the key benefits of lifelong learning – strong self-motivation. Because the drive to accomplish something – whether investigating a new subject or actually utilizing a skill – means setting goals.
Of course, as most people are familiar with from their school days, learning happens best when structured. There’s a reason why educators set due dates for research papers and other assignments – it creates a goal. When students have a specific task to accomplish in a given amount of time, they tend to rise to expectations. And in the process of meeting their external goals, they learn how to set internal goals of their own.
Goal setting is one of the benefits of lifelong learning because it helps guide the sort of intrinsic motivation key to education. And whenever someone attains their goal, they experience a strong sense of accomplishment.
3. Greater self-confidence
Naturally, when someone begins to understand something they previously didn’t, a sense of accomplishment follows. And often, this blooms into greater self-confidence overall. Because when someone recognizes they have the capacity to learn something they thought they couldn’t, they suddenly realize there’s more they can do. This might occur more often with those learning difficult new skills. Although it’s also present in those gaining pure academic knowledge. After all, better familiarity with a subject affords more confidence when discussing it.
Greater self-confidence can relate specifically to the learned area or apply to new pursuits as well. For example, learning how to play a difficult song on a guitar might mean someone has more self-confidence in learning to play drums as well. However, there’s a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. One recognizes the ability to overcome difficult odds and accomplish something meaningful. The other begins to believe the ability to accomplish something meaningful makes them better than others. It can also lead a person to falsely assume they can do anything if they set their mind to it. So, it’s important to keep a sense of real humility, especially for those in a position of leadership.
4. Learning practical skills
Whether directly or indirectly, one of the benefits of lifelong learning includes naturally picking up practical skills. Of course, someone intending to learn a new ability probably recognizes this. However, the mere act of learning builds up other skills which are more difficult to notice when not specifically looking for them. For example, reading through a dense book on metaphysics innately develops the reader’s ability to concentrate. They might find themselves better equipped to parse out logical arguments due to the philosophical nature of the topic. In fact, they will likely become better readers. So, the mere act of learning contributes to the natural development of practical skills that can be used daily.
Of course, the sorts of skills one gains from reading about metaphysics can apply well in both personal and career settings. Reading dense material makes it easier to work through other material and understand it quickly. Logical arguments can help sway the minds of team members or organization leaders toward new ideas. But these skills can also make reading for leisure more enjoyable or understand how advertisements often prey on emotion rather than logic. Overall, the sorts of practical skills gained from lifelong learning work in many diverse situations.
5. Learning for the sake of enjoyment
Essentially, this benefit of lifelong learning should be clear without much explanation. Ongoing education should be done for the sake of enjoyment as much as personal or professional growth. Sometimes, it makes sense for someone to pursue a subject they have little to no interest in. For example, whenever it can help further their career. However, in most cases, it should be voluntary and self-motivated, which means the person needs to enjoy it. After primary and even university education, people largely have free reign of the subjects they want to pursue. So, if someone has an interest in astrophysics, they should learn about that. If they want to know more about music theory, they could do so.
Each individual is different, with various passions and interests. And part of lifelong learning is the freedom to pursue subjects that are exciting to learn about.
6. Sharpening your mind
The brain might not be a muscle, but it’s similar to them in at least one way. If you don’t use it, it’s not going to be as strong. One of the benefits of lifelong learning is that it keeps your brain in a consistent state of exercise. Learning is, in fact, a great way to keep your mind healthy and vital. A report by Johns Hopkins noted that from 2000 to 2012, dementia in those 65 and older dropped. The article also stated that time spent in school was an associated cause. So, even as people grow older, regular educational exercises can greatly reduce the chances of potentially debilitating diseases.
Continued learning is an essential factor in keeping one’s mind sharp, in keeping brains healthy. This isn’t true simply for elderly individuals but also for younger people as well. Regular mental exertion can boost happiness, reduce fear responses, and contribute to a positive mindset. Although it isn’t a sure barrier against disease, the healthier habits it forms can lead to better quality of life.
7. Investing in health
In recent years, the link between a healthy mind and a healthy body has been explored in depth. Previously, many people disregarded certain types of mental illnesses as pseudo-scientific at best and paid them little heed medically. However, studies now show that body and mental health have a far greater impact on each other than once thought. Lifelong learning has the potential to exercise the brain in ways that stave off mental illnesses like dementia. However, it might also reduce chances of depression and anxiety, which have been linked to diabetes and other diseases.
Personal health revolves around far more than physical symptoms and remedies. And a holistic view recognizes the need for both physical and mental health. Because lifelong learning can help contribute to better overall mental wellbeing, it’s a prime factor in general health as well. Without being a reductionist, those who want to lead the healthiest lives should take time to learn and exercise their brains.
8. Participating in existing interests
Many people have at least a surface-level interest in various subjects, though they never go further than this. Lifelong learning can help an individual take a step from simply observing and appreciating an activity to participating in it. Perhaps this is most clearly seen with more creative outlets and people, though. Every culture around the world appreciates music in some form or another. However, that doesn’t mean all 7.7 billion humans are great musicians. In fact, most people aren’t. In narrow musical terms, a study from the U.K. estimates that only 34% of adults currently play an instrument. So, there’s a wide range between the number of people who appreciate music and those who make it in this form.
One of the major benefits of lifelong learning is that it provides the opportunity to experience and participate in existing interests. Adults who have spent their entire life enjoying the music of others can learn to write or play music. But music is far from the only example. Art, writing, and a host of other creative pursuits perfectly embody this idea. Lifelong learning can just as easily mean stacking into a new skill as it can acquiring knowledge. And often enough, the two aspects go hand-in-hand.
9. Discovering interests you weren’t aware of
Sometimes, when it comes to learning, someone has finally decided to pursue something they’ve had at the back of their mind for years. It might be a twenty-eight-year-old looking to get into photography or a seventy-year-old diving into acting after years of interest. However, there are other times when learning leads people to discover passions they were never aware of in the first place. For example, an individual interested in art who never knew about photorealism.
The more someone pursues knowledge in one area, the more they’ll discover new fields of interest. In fact, some might find the new subject even more fulfilling and enjoyable than the one which introduced them to it. And fortunately, lifelong learning can help expedite this process of exploration.
10. Finding new ways of doing old things
Often, two people can take different paths and still end up at the same place. That’s the case with careers, projects, and a host of other things in life. But sometimes, individuals become set in their ways and think their chosen method of getting somewhere is the only way. One of the benefits of lifelong learning is that it introduces people to various ways of thinking. And through this process, they’ll discover that there might be a different tactic they never realized. Potentially a method which works far better than what they’ve always done.
If nothing else, finding different ways of doing things can help a person recognize the value that others bring to the table. It can help strengthen humility and increase appreciation for the contributions of others.
11. Developing job security
Of course, it only makes sense that increased knowledge and capabilities contribute to job security. If a person knows a wealth of important information and further displays strong capabilities, they often become more in-demand. Most organizational leaders aren’t entirely blind to the part their employees play in success or failure. So, those who have a greater chance of contributing to the overall vision often find themselves coveted. This might manifest as higher pay or increased benefits. At other times, it might simply reduce to keeping a position when many others are experiencing layoffs. And naturally, lifelong learning does nothing to guarantee a secure position with one company. However, if the worst comes to pass, it stands to reason other employers will see great value.
Job security doesn’t necessarily mean a lifetime spent at one company. However, it does imply that the skills and knowledge one possesses can help them attain another position quickly when the need arises.
12. Learning to learn (adaptability)
This benefit of lifelong learning is somewhat difficult to describe, because it almost seems as if it comes down to talking in circles. Learning how to learn well might be the best way to state it. Because, even in education, there are both beneficial ways of doing things and harmful methods. Adaptability plays heavily into this as well, because it often refers to the speed at which someone can learn to do something other than what they’ve previously done. In a career setting, this might mean adopting new methods and practices that have displaced older, outdated ones. In fact, companies change all the time, so the chances of this are high.
Lifelong learning can prepare an individual for this sort of shift well in advance by training them how to adapt. After all, such learners are probably well aware that information also changes quickly. For example, newer scientific explanations regularly overturn long-held theories. So, those who follow such areas of study are well-acquainted with new methods and ideas. In fact, because lifelong learners thirst for knowledge they might even prove instrumental in bringing about necessary change in their organizations. So, when shifts do happen, they adapt quickly and know how to learn the new skills they need.
13. Building a larger network
Education can be a solitary enterprise, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Often enough, learning takes place in community – in groups of like-minded individuals who work together to find answers. Because of this dynamic, lifelong learning can lead to greater networking opportunities which itself offers many benefits. For example, a stronger network might decrease the time it takes to find a new job. It provides a strong pool of individuals who can help answer difficult questions when needed. Networking might even impact someone’s personal life in ways they never expected. The possible benefits go on and on.
Learning in a community strengthens bonds because of the shared experience. And often, it leads people to meet others who they might otherwise never have met.
14. Becoming better educators
It only makes sense for those who have specialized knowledge to pass it on to others who can eventually do the same. After all, learning is simply the transmission of knowledge. So, when a lifelong learner becomes more adept at instructing others in new skills or theories they’ve come across, they’re participating in the larger system of education. That doesn’t mean they’ve donned a suit and tie, standing at the front of a classroom. It can just as easily be a mechanic, working underneath a vehicle with a trainee. Education expands far past the boundaries of a school building. It happens every day, in the streets, in offices, in houses, and a host of other places. Those who seek knowledge have the responsibility to teach others.
That’s why lifelong learning helps others to become better educators. They recognize the value of the information they’ve received, and can then pass it on to others who can likewise benefit from it. Of course, there’s the danger of becoming prideful or arrogant. Knowledge puffs up. However, learning can also have the opposite effect. In trite, Socratic fashion, it can lead someone to know “that they know nothing”. In other words, exposure to knowledge can help someone realize the vast amount of things they don’t understand. That’s why lifelong learning is a process. The best educators are those who recognize this and who, themselves, never stop learning.
15. Contribute to a better society
Those with great wisdom carry on their shoulders the burden of society. Whether lawmakers, leaders, or simple civilians, the learned have within their ability the shape of culture and civilization. Of course, this sounds lofty – perhaps even high-and-mighty. But it doesn’t need to. And in particular, it doesn’t need to be theoretical – it requires pragmatic action. For example, it might mean that a concerned citizen goes before their city council to argue a need or hope. However, contributing to a better society also requires courage. Because in the face of opposition or sometimes complacency, it’s difficult to stand. So, lifelong learners have as their responsibility contributing to their communities.
Although, this is also a benefit. At the end of the day, society is hopefully better for it. They’ve invested in a stronger city, a stronger state, nation and world. Of course, lifelong learning cannot erase conflict. It does not make a perfect society. But striving forward with purpose and thoughtfulness represents a worthy goal in and of itself.
16. Finding new meaning in life
Unfortunately, too many people find themselves stuck in desperate circumstances. Sometimes, it might be a fault of their own. Others, external factors have caused their distress. Lifelong learning can help reverse the detrimental effects of this state of hopelessness by offering something new to pursue. It can bring about new interests and goals, driving motivators and other things which help renew an individual’s will. And in that regard, the primary benefit is that those with little hope can find new meaning in life.
Perhaps through learning, someone discovers a cause they’re willing to stand for and help. Another person might find something new to enjoy when they’ve been depressed for years. Exploring different concepts, ideas, and interests can help develop a more meaningful existence.
17. Developing humility and respect for others
Genuine education is the bane of prejudice. At least, it should be. Because often, lifelong learning leads to encountering cultures, ideas, and ways of life that differ from what one is used to. And in experiencing these sorts of different facets of life, someone can better appreciate that their chosen way of doing things isn’t the only way of doing things. Again, two people can take different paths and end up at the same place. And recognizing this builds a sense of humility not often found in those who believe their ways are the only correct methods.
Respect for others is an intrinsic part of lifelong learning, because it admits to not having all the answers. Two different people have perspectives that can help shape each other. Having the humility and respect to accept this is the most basic step toward true education.
18. Earn the trust and respect of others
Knowledge, on its own, does not immediately demand the respect and trust of others. In fact, there are plenty of people who are extremely intelligent yet utterly undeserving of trust. However, what a person does with that knowledge can endear them to others and help earn the trust and respect of their peers. Lifelong learning can help impart a wealth of skills and abilities. And when these are used to build up society, show respect to others, and pass on wisdom, it leads to better ends.
A sure sign of someone whose extensive learning has not made them deserving of trust and admiration is one who demands it. There’s the typical trope of the belligerent college professor, demanding the respect of his students. That’s not what lifelong learning should engender. Instead, a simple idea seems fairly clear. Lifelong learning should lead to respecting others, which in turns helps gain trust and respect back.
19. Become a more well-rounded thinker
Naturally, someone who invests a significant amount of time and energy into learning also stands to become a more well-rounded thinker. After all, they’ll likely encounter new topics and ideas they’ve never seen before. And this can help greatly expand their process of cognition overall. In fact, lifelong learning can challenge the presuppositions a person holds and entirely change their basis of thought. It’s never possible to entirely escape bias. But becoming more aware of it is key to growing into a more well-rounded individual.
20. Staving off boredom
Finally, and potentially most basically, one of the most recognizable benefits of lifelong learning is that it prevents boredom. It’s easy to develop a system in life that simply takes a person day to day with little break in the monotony. Discovering new topics of interest is one of the best ways to overcome the dullness this cyclical sort of schedule creates. Learning allows someone to pour themselves into a new venture with fascination and wonder. In turn, this can help bring a spark of joy back into life where before it was simply mundane.
VTR Learning Can Help You Discover Other Benefits of Lifelong Learning
Of course, there are plenty of other benefits of lifelong learning not listed here. And even from those discussed, different individuals might not experience them all. Part of the journey is discovering which benefits impact you personally. And until you start learning, this simply isn’t possible.
VTR Learning has a host of different courses on business topics like Human Resources, Leadership, and Accounting. So, if you’re looking for a place to start, our catalog can help.
Article written by Braden Norwood
Last updated March 23, 2023