Monday, July 20, 2009

Being a life-long learner

You are what you know. No matter what happens in your life, the knowledge you gain is yours to use to your advantage and to share with others. Since the world is changing so rapidly, it is worth assuming that there is a vast amount of new knowledge out there. It's up to each individual to seek out and acquire this knowledge pro-actively.

Being a life-long learner is firstly a disposition, and also a decision. Ever since I can remember myself, I have observed the world around me and absorbed as much as I could. I realized that learning new things is fun, fulfilling and essential to my growth as a person. Assimilating the new knowledge and adding it to my previous knowledge gives me a wider perspective on life.

So, what actions do I take as a life-long learner?

I love to read. Every day I spend at least two hours reading. This includes the newspapers and news websites, various blogs and email newsletters, and books, both fiction and non-fiction. If you think you don't enjoy reading, it might be worth reconsidering. Perhaps you can find a particular sort of material you enjoy reading and start there.

I listen to the radio and podcasts. I choose what interests me and devote, on average, an hour a day to listening to this sort of audio content. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the types of podcasts I listen to include fiction readings, discussions, lectures and educational talks.

I enjoy attending lectures and workshops. Some are in my professional field (translating), like those organized by the Israel Translators Association and other, local groups. I am a member of a networking organization, BNI, and often attend the training workshops they offer. I also attend a Master Mind group, where business people discuss various issues and support each other. I usually attend 2-4 lectures, workshops or learning events each month.

I also spend time talking to people and listening to what they have to say. I learn a lot from the experience of others. The differences and similarities between people and their motivations fascinate me. Active listening, with learning in mind, means that conversation is not just a way of being social and passing the time, but part of my learning experience.

Luckily for me, I learn a lot from my work. I translate and edit a wide range of academic and business material, and each job teaches me something new. Sometimes this material is interesting, sometimes rather routine, but I never find it boring as I decided long ago not to be bored. I also learn a lot about writing and editing and the usage of language from having to think about what I am writing or editing.

One aspect of being a life-long learner is that you must be open minded, and sometimes be willing to reconsider what you thought you knew. I have changed my mind about various things after learning more about them. Being dogmatic and absolutely certain about things prevents real learning and the sort of changes that lead to personal development.

Another way of looking at learning is that everyone who has been a teacher, mentor or inspiration to you in your life must have learned what they knew from others. Once you have learned enough, you can become a teacher, mentor and inspiration yourself. This is how society passes on the knowledge, skills and experience from one generation to the next.

I invite readers to embark on their own journey of life-long learning, in whatever areas interest them.

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