Forbes recently reported that 87% of workers believe job or skills training will be essential throughout their work life to keep up with changes in the workplace, such as technological advances and the emergence of the so-called gig economy (contract jobs rather than full-time positions). However, job security is only one of many reasons to pursue lifelong learning. According to the Department of Education, adult learners “are able to be more solvent financially and to care for their families, be more actively engaged in their communities and as citizens, and are better able to continue to sustain their competitiveness and employability in a changing marketplace.”
If you’re not sure how extra homework and paying for classes can possibly benefit you in all these ways, read on for the top five reasons to never stop learning.
1) For self-improvement
Many people pursue lifelong learning simply to better themselves, whether that means pursuing a degree later in life, or taking adult learning courses to develop skills and fill in knowledge gaps. There are a variety of resources outside the classroom, too: podcasts, books, meetup groups, and online tutorials and classes have made knowledge more accessible than ever. Continuing education also increases political efficacy and community involvement. Having a deeper understanding of history, culture, and science helps people make sense of the seemingly-senseless debates on things like climate change and global politics so they can make more informed choices, both at the polls and in their daily life.
2) For better quality of life
Forbes points out that there is a growing interest in “renewable learning” that is acquired and then applied for a specific purpose. Individuals can choose what to learn and how to learn it, attaining skills like CPR and First Aid certification online or taking employer-demanded classes available from a growing assortment of providers. Competitiveness in a changing market is only one side of the financial stability coin, however. Knowledge of financial markets, the economy, banking, and credit are all vital to surviving in the age of digitization and globalization, but it doesn’t come with the average high school diploma.
3) To keep your brain in shape
As noted by a Cambridge University study, “cognitive resilience” is increasingly important because people are living longer and staying active (or even working) later in life, whether out of choice or necessity. The study concluded that lifelong learning is good for the brain’s plasticity – its ability to make new connections and change in structure as it learns new skills. According to other research on aging and memory, higher levels of cognitive activity or mental exercise are also associated with improved memory and may help delay the symptoms or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
4) To be your child’s first teacher
If you’re a parent, aunt/uncle, nanny, babysitter, or anyone else caring for children, continuing your own education is the best way to support their development and early learning. Toddlers and younger kids are curious, inquisitive explorers, and child development theories state that kids learn through interaction and play. Parents and other early caregivers are responsible for creating developmentally-appropriate opportunities for young children to learn about themselves, their environment, and other people. The more competent you are in different subjects, the more prepared you’ll be to answer their (many) questions as they grow up, help them with homework, and teach them about the world.
5) For pleasure
Yes, that’s right. Learning new concepts or delving into something new like architecture can help you appreciate the world around you, and might even send you on an exciting journey of discovery. Successfully completing courses also cultivates a sense of accomplishment and ability that can improve your self-esteem and help you sucdeed in other areas of life. Some learning activities, like reading, listening to audiobooks, or practicing an instrument, have been shown to reduce stress levels. Greater comprehension and communication skills are also important for self-care, and research shows that cognitive activity is “critical to your emotional health as you get older.”
Lifelong learning may be something you do for yourself – to be more self-reliant and self-sufficient – but it can have an impact on your whole world.