If you want to stay sharp, the trick is to become an eternal student of life.
Life-long learners invest in themselves, and often manage to stay ahead of the curve by doing so.
They tend to be self-motivated and manage to keep on going long after others have quit.
But what are the real signs that you’re a lifelong learner?
Let’s take a look.
1) You like to try new things
For a lot of lifelong learners, they have a secret weapon:
And that’s enthusiasm.
They enjoy doing new things, going to new places, meeting new people, and learning about the world.
Rather than being fundamentally threatened by the prospect of change, they actually quite like it.
It challenges them to see and experience the world in a different way.
This interest in searching out new things helps to motivate them to seek new information and skills.
If you’re a lifelong learner then you’re able to stay open-minded to doing things differently.
Rather than get stuck in your ways and refuse to break from routine, you want to give new things a go.
Whether setting off on a round-the-world trip or just having lunch at a different restaurant than your usual haunt — new experiences give you a kick.
2) You do scary things for the sake of your growth
New experiences might thrill you, but the fact is that we all get scared.
There are bound to be experiences and opportunities that sit outside of our comfort zone, no matter how much you thrive off change.
It’s not that lifelong learners don’t feel the fear, it’s that they do it anyway.
Because guess what?
The most powerful life lessons rarely happen inside the classroom.
They happen when we get out there and get our hands dirty. When we take a leap of faith. When we take a deep breath and mutter to ourselves ‘here goes nothing’.
Because life’s greatest learners don’t sit in their cozy living rooms with a book in hand. They are prepared to experience life, not just study it secondhand.
Life learning isn’t really about formal education or online courses (as great as those things can be).
It’s about taking the tough lessons along with the smooth ones and using them to grow.
3) You’re multi-passionate
If you’re a lifelong learner I’m guessing that everything has the potential to fascinate you, at least for 5 minutes.
You probably find intrigue and interest in a variety of issues, hobbies, and subjects.
With so much to learn, you don’t limit yourself to just a few topics.
You have the potential to be many things all at once. But rather than dilute you, this is one of your strengths.
As self-confessed multi-passionate entrepreneur Marie Forleo puts it:
“That one glorious word, multipassionate, lit up my world and gave me confidence to create exactly the kind of life I wanted to live, not the one society expected of me.”
4) You’re more focused on the doing than on the end result
It’s easy to get disheartened when we make winning our sole goal.
Setbacks are an unavoidable part of growth and learning. This means all roots lead to failure at some point or another when you try something new.
But lifelong learners know that they won’t learn much if they allow themselves to get derailed by failure.
In order to cushion themselves from this potential pitfall, they learn for the sake of learning itself rather than achieving any particular fixed outcome.
They place their attention on every step along the path rather than the final destination. And this intent focus helps them in their quest for learning.
5) You always suck at something
Yep, rather than being a total genius, being a lifelong learner means making friends with failure.
But it shows one vitally important thing:
You’re not afraid to try, and you don’t give up.
It actually takes a lot of gumption to give something a go. It takes even more to allow yourself to stick at it and ride out the inevitable beginning part where it all feels difficult.
Where most people give in because they don’t feel blessed with “natural talent”, lifelong learners persevere.
It’s actually that perseverance that helps them progress to the part where they do get good.
In order to become skilled, everyone has to pass the stage where they sort of suck. So in a weird way, you can say that life longer learners are extra good at sucking at things.
6) You’re curious
They say that curiosity killed the cat, but they failed to mention how much wisdom the cat gained before meeting its untimely end!
Because the reality is that curiosity is the key to how we all grow and learn.
As CEO Cheri Beranek explains in Fast Company:
“As kids, we can ask nearly 100 questions a day. Our childhood curiosity is how we grow into more experienced versions of ourselves as developed adults. That curiosity stays with us long into adulthood, but it can get lost behind professionalism, risk, fear, and doubt.”
Lifelong learners are able to stay tapped into their natural childlike curiosity. This fascination not only extends to the world around them, but to themselves too.
As we’ll see next, cultivating greater self-awareness is always central to lifelong learners. After all, how can you understand life if you can’t even understand yourself?
7) You strive for greater self-awareness
I’m going to go out on a limb and say:
Self-awareness strengthens all learning.
When you see yourself clearly—both your weaknesses and your skills — then you can get to the real work.
It’s here where learning sticks and makes a real difference in your life.
After all, there’s no point in learning when you don’t have the capacity to apply those lessons.
Research has shown that self-awareness can help us to be more proactive, boost our acceptance, and encourage positive self-development.
Ultimately, the reflection and introspection that comes from self-awareness are great assets for anyone who wants to learn more.
8) You don’t take things at face value
Rather than believe whatever it is you’re told, you have an inquiring mind.
You prefer to think for yourself. And that requires being open-minded, questioning, and refusing to simply follow the crowd.
Maybe at times, it annoys the hell out of people around you. You’re the person who asks “how come?” Or “how do you know?” rather than blindly accepting.
Perhaps when someone gives you a “fact”, you go straight to Google to do a bit of your own independent research on the matter.
You may have even been accused of skepticism in the past.
But it’s more down to the fact that you refuse to frame your world around someone else’s point of view. You’d rather figure out what you think.
Partly this goes back to your curiosity. But it’s also that you realize growth doesn’t happen without methodical questioning.
Without the ability to analyze, how can you find a better way of doing things?
9) You know how to push through boredom and complacency
Contrary to popular belief, lifelong learners don’t have some sort of superpower that makes them immune to getting cheesed off.
Even life longer learners can’t be bothered some days.
What they do have is the self-awareness to know this and the practical tools to support them to see things through.
That’s why as a lifelong learner, you’ll no doubt have found a few useful things along the way to help you stay the course when your determination wavers.
It could be a method for sticking to better habits. It might be a clever way to kick overwhelm into touch.
But one thing is for sure:
You’ve encountered plenty of setbacks to your learning.
But rather than give in, you’ve navigated those challenges to find a way to push through.
Learning requires perseverance. And the reality is that it can be tricky to find.
The bottom line is: Rather than make excuses, you make time and effort.
10) You believe that knowledge is power
According to the Emeritus Global Consumer Sentiment 2021 Report, learners turn to education as a means to future-proof themselves.
But learning is not only a way of improving just your own life but other people’s too.
If you’re a lifelong learner, you most likely have faith that striving to know more is what inspires us all to do better.
As a former journalist at the BBC, I initially got into the profession for what were arguably naive reasons.
I wholeheartedly believe in the saying that knowledge is power. And I felt that letting people know what is going on in the world and in their communities allows them to make more empowered choices.
Even though I soon discovered it’s not quite that simple, I do think the principle still applies.
Knowledge gives us all more choices.
It lets people make informed decisions that can potentially better their own lives and the lives of others.
Lifelong learners have an eternal pursuit of greater knowledge.