A Lifelong Learning Plan is a conscious, continuous engagement in acquiring, assimilating and applying knowledge and skills in the context of authentic, self-directed growth and challenge. It is rare for individuals to take this initiative. Most people operate on a "what they need now" plan and typically attend educational institutions for their training.
Lifelong Learning is a philosophy of approaching learning as an integral, inseparable part of our lifeís activities. Here are ten guidelines to help you formulate your own personalized Lifelong Learning Process.
1. Commit to approach learning as a lifelong journey. Choose to keep it alive throughout your lifetime. You don't need to attend formal educational institutions for this process. In fact, you can learn more in small, consistent spurts than you can in a classroom, if you set up your plan correctly.
2. Maximize your resources. With lifelong learning, there isn't a structure like you had in school, so itís easy to ignore and procrastinate. If you allow this, eventually the "you snooze, you lose" theory will catch up with you. A prime example is how changes in the national economy have hit the IT industry these last few years. The companies that priorize learning are still in the game, whereas their competitors who focused on "what we need now" are out of business. Create a system and plan that works and can last a lifetime. Keep learning journals for each topic.
3. Maximize your environments. Identify and create settings that support and inspire you both inside and outside your home. How does the library spark your learning? How about the mall, the park, or even McDonalds! Explore different environments and label each one (e.g., "inspiring," "relaxing," "great for concentration.") What supplies help you keeping your energy up? Do you need quiet for some learning and busy environments for others?
4. Know how you learn. To learn effectively, know how you learn. How do you take in information, process, and retain it? There isn't one best way. Tie everything into a learning purpose and vision. When and how often does you mind need a break? Do you have reading spurts? How do you retain the information -- by reading aloud, notes, summarizing in memory, or sharing with others?
5. Tap into the power of your mind. Your mindís power is evident in everything you do. Analytical, critical and creative thinking enables the mind to process, store, and create all the facts and ideas it encounters. By practicing different types and ways of thinking, you keep your mind strong and flexible. Consider it "going to the gym" for your mind! (Talking about how the mind works is the subject of a huge tome, not a Top 10!)
6. Harness the power of words and ideas. Words, when joined, form ideas, and are tools with enormous energy. Whether writing a memo, letter, e-mail, article, or journal entry, make each an opportunity to fulfill a learning goal. Each is a chance to work toward improving and using words to construct understandable ideas. Learn to express ideas in writing. This will evolve into clearer thinking. Keep an idea journal by theme or topic.
7. Absorb, retain, and demonstrate knowledge. What do you do with the facts, opinions, and stories that you accumulate daily? Listening helps absorption and memory skills, which enables retention. Listen to a teleclass or book on tape, then write your own version and master what you learned by moving it into long-term memory. Listening can be compared to using a camera. First, you view the image and focus (listening). Next, you snap the picture (remembering). Finally, you print the image (demonstrate knowledge). Mastering knowledge means being able to apply it in other situations.
8. Value diversity. The greater part of our day involves interacting with others. Experiencing other peopleís communication styles, learning methods, and the roles played in groups and teams helps us to grow, prosper, open our minds and develop new perceptions. Dealing with conflict, criticism, and any points of vulnerability strengthens our ability to use any situation as an opportunity to learn.
9. Take exceptionally good care of yourself. Physical and mental health affects learning. Examine these aspects and set up contingencies within your plan to identify and work through all health challenges as soon as they appear.
10. Map your course. Maximize time, energy and focus by defining a yearly learning theme. Subdivide into monthly topics with time commitments. (Example: Ten years ago, I defined a learning goal of three new computer steps in no more than 15-minutes per day. It has compounded and saved time and money ever since.) Minimize distractions by learning to "table the other topics." Create a "next year" folder to contain those great ideas and set up a review month of tabled topics to decide how to use them in the following year.