You’re a lifelong learner. I know you might not agree right now, but trust me - you are.
Humans are built to learn. That’s what separates us so drastically from other animals: we love to learn, and we’re very, very good at it.
Maybe you’re someone who loved learning once, but became disillusioned with the times-table-chanting and poem-memorising that you did at school. Maybe you’ve never liked learning because you associate it with the boredom and drudgery that formal education so often inspires.
But real learning isn’t about passing an exam. It goes beyond rote memorisation and useless regurgitation of facts.
It’s about learning to think about the world in a new way, and gaining new tools to make our ambitions a reality.
It can teach you your full potential. It can show you a new path to take.
Learning can transform you into the best version of yourself.
And if all this inspirational fluff is making you feel more nauseous than your hastily scoffed Valentine’s Day chocolates, remember that learning can bump your salary – big time.
So how do you go about resetting your brain, finding your passion, and learning to love learning?
1. Unlearn your assumptions about yourself
You’re not the same person who fidgeted through school assemblies and fell asleep in your maths textbook.
I’m not saying that you’d react any differently now under similarly constrained circumstances.
What’s different is that you’re an adult now. You have the capacity to turn your attention to the things you really want to learn, the authority to ask questions, and the freedom to find a subject and a style of learning that works for you.
By realising that the limitations of childhood were (most likely) what made you turn away from your inherently human love of learning, you’re taking the first step towards rekindling that love.
2. Find your motivation
Forget the ‘what’. Why do you want to learn?
Are you motivated by career advancement? Finding a new job? Earning more money?
Or do you want to show your children the benefit of education? Do you wish you were better at science so you could help your kids with their homework?
Maybe you’ve always wanted to play the saxophone, or take up painting, or learn French.
What you do is up to you. The most important thing is to make it very clear to yourself why you’re doing it.
Write the reason on sticky notes and pin them to your fridge, your books, your instrument. Save a note with your ‘why’ on the homescreen of your phone and laptop. Write it anywhere that it might inspire you, or drive you away from procrastination.
If you have the why, everything else will fall into place.
3. Choose the right subject
Some motivations will lead themselves naturally to actions: if you’re moving to Spain, it’s time to learn Spanish. Others can be trickier to work out.
Say you want to earn more money – gaining a new qualification in your field (or in a new field) is a no brainer.
However, if you want to start your own business, then having a qualification is less useful than having a comprehensive knowledge of your chosen industry. Studying for a qualification can be a wonderful way to get that knowledge, but the most important part is the knowledge you gain, not the certification.
If you want to learn for learning’s sake (a very valid ‘why’!) but you’re not sure what to learn, then take some time to explore your options. Take a yoga class, try improv comedy or learn to code. Go to a taster session at your local college or community centre, or sample a few of the thousands of online courses there are out there.
It might take a while for something to click for you, but when it does, you’ll be unstoppable.
4. Decide how you’ll learn
These days, there are more ways to learn than ever before. (Thanks internet.)
If you’d like to learn a language, apps like Duolingo can help. Future make-up artist, DIY pro or guitar hero? YouTube is for you.
If your niche is more specialised, you’d be surprised how many topics are covered by MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Whether it’s comic books, programming, cinematography, dinosaurs, gamification theory or jazz, you’re sure to find something to pique your fancy. Plus, they’re often run by some of the most respected universities on the planet – for example, check out Harvard’s EdX.
If you need a qualification, you don’t need to quit your job and go to uni. Sign up for college part time, or take one of the many online professional courses available (like ours!). Just make sure it’s accredited so that what you learn will count when you put it on your CV.
Adult learning is so different from school because no one is making you learn. You have an infinite number of subjects to study and countless ways to go about it. Take our advice, and you will find something that rekindles the flame.
It’s never too late to learn how different your life could be.