In a world that is constantly changing, those who refuse to learn will be left behind. At the same time, the face of education is changing, and a growth mindset with a commitment to lifelong learning is more important than ever.
If you are committed to improving yourself and prioritize education, this list of 14 characteristics of lifelong learners is for you.
1) An unquenchable thirst for knowledge
Some people want to learn more about the world, while others do not; however, if you want to be a lifelong learner, you need to thirst for knowledge. Some people want to be entertained, so they can spend their days watching TV or sports, but this is not possible for lifelong learners.
People who are alright with knowing just a little bit and aren’t all that curious are unlikely to have a desire to gain more knowledge. For myself, I’ve always been addicted to learning; I get deep into topics, learn as much as I can and then move on. However, I can never know enough, as I’m always seeking more knowledge than I had before.
2) Unlimited curiosity
Curiosity is an essential quality of lifelong learners, as curiosity drives us to learn more about the world around us. Over the last year, it has become clear that most people don’t care too much about the facts because they want to be told what to do. And while there is nothing wrong with trusting the experts, it often stems from a lack of curiosity.
To be a good learner, you need to be curious about things beyond what you already know. People sometimes say that curiosity killed the cat, but I’d argue that it made the cat much more interesting. There are some risks to being too curious, but that isn’t likely to be a problem if you are a lifelong learner.
3) Willingness to make mistakes
One notable characteristic of lifelong learners is their willingness to make mistakes because people who are afraid to fail are rarely willing to challenge themselves. While we are sometimes discouraged from trying things that we may fail at, failure is one of the best ways to learn, as we almost always gain knowledge from our mistakes.
If you let fear of failure get in the way of your intellectual pursuits, you will be less willing to try new things. This matters because to learn a lot; you need to be ready to try something you haven’t tried before; otherwise, you are just repeating what you already know.
4) Tendency towards goal setting
Being a lifelong learner is a sort of goal that takes a lot of effort, though arguably, it could be a personality trait that can’t be changed. Regardless, when we are able and willing to set goals, we can work and accomplish big tasks. More specifically, learning a lot about a topic takes dedication and focus, which is always easier with a clearly defined goal.
Without the use of goals and planning, it isn’t easy to accomplish anything of note. As lifelong learners are driven to achieve big things, they are more likely to set goals. If you want to learn a lot about something, make it a goal, create a plan and be willing to follow through.
5) Lover of books and reading
Not everyone is a fan of reading; this is especially true as we have access to everything we need on the internet. But this distraction away from books is problematic because books are a great source of knowledge and information.
For any lifelong learner, it is vital to be a lover of books and reading.
For a long time, I couldn’t read, but once I could, I became addicted to it, and at last check, I’ve read close to 200 books. That might not be a significant number for some people, but it is enormous for the people in my life. Whether you are reading textbooks or fiction, books give us a chance to see life through someone else’s eyes, which increases our knowledge by necessity.
6) Exceptional habits that encourage learning
Curiosity and an interest in learning are habits that need to be developed to be a lifelong learner. As I’ve already mentioned, any big task requires dedication and repetition; to learn a lot about a topic, you need to have a habit of reading or researching. Without these positive habits, it is going to be challenging to accomplish anything significant.
For myself, I’ve made a habit of reading a book for at least 20 minutes every night before I go to bed. While this means that it takes me a few weeks to finish a book, I’m still finishing them regularly. On the other hand, if you have a habit of playing video games every day, it is doubtful that you will be exposed to a host of new ideas that will expand your knowledge.
7) Well developed sense of open-mindedness
Being open-minded is an extraordinary quality on its own. Still, it is also essential for lifelong learners as it is challenging to build your knowledge without an interest in new and unknown things. At the same time, when it comes to learning about new ideas, if you only look at the most popular explanations, you will miss out on a wealth of knowledge found in the obscure.
There are at least two sides to every coin; this means that if you aren’t willing to look at different perspectives, you aren’t going to understand the topic.
Lifelong learners are curious about the truth; they don’t just want to know what everyone else believes.
8) Constantly seeking opportunities to grow
If you are ok with standing still and sticking with what you already know, you likely aren’t going to be a good learner. People who desire to know more are always looking for opportunities to grow and better understand the world around them. While we tend to think of learning as something that happens at a desk with a book, proper knowledge comes from experiences in the world.
Growth also comes in many different forms, and it can mean learning more about yourself and who you are or learning more about a specific topic or the world at large.
But what matters most is the idea that we are seeking something more and better than what we already have. This doesn’t need to be material, but experiences are often the most meaningful contributors to knowledge and understanding.
9) Willingness to step outside comfort zones
One of the most significant limitations to being a lifelong learner is getting stuck in a comfort zone. This is often easy because it takes less effort to do things the same way over and over.
But if you always do the same thing, then you are missing out on everything else that is out there.
A willingness to step outside your comfort zone means you are opening yourself up to different sorts of opportunities and things that have been unknown. Before I went to Korea, I was terrified of what would happen if I went somewhere by myself where I couldn’t speak the language. By the time I had left, that was one of the most extraordinary learning experiences of my life.
10) Diverse and constantly evolving interests
While being a specialist helps us pay the bills, it is kind of against the lifelong learner’s natural tendency to be curious about multiple things. The more you learn about a topic, the more you realize that you need to dig into other issues to give context to what you already know. For this reason, it is essential to be willing to evolve your ideas and interests as the evidence changes.
I know some people who are into sports and know everything there is to know about the topic, but in a sense, they are stuck in one place because their ideas and interests aren’t evolving with time. It is ok to be intensely focused on a topic but to be an excellent lifelong learner, you need to be open to many different ideas because they often feed off each other.
11) Have a growth mindset
A growth mindset is a belief that we can grow in our skills and abilities with time and practice. While this seems true to anyone who has tried to get better at anything, many people don’t believe that they can improve and feel stuck where they are.
Lifelong learners must think that they can improve; otherwise, they’d have no reason to keep learning.
As I mentioned earlier, I had trouble reading early in life, but I always believed that there was more for me in the world, so I put all my efforts into improving. It did take a while, but I was able to get over the initial hurdle of not being able to read and am now an avid reader. The point being, you need to believe in the possibility of improvement to improve.
12) Maintain the ability to self-motivate
One crucial characteristic of lifelong learners is self-motivation, which is necessary because it is easy to stand still and do nothing, but it is challenging to keep doing something. If you want to stick with anything in life, you need to be willing to put in the time, and that takes personal motivation cause no one will push you to keep learning once school is over.
With anything in life that takes time, we need to be self-motivated, and while we might get a push from our teachers and bosses, that is only going to work for a while and will only push us to do the minimum. If you want to keep learning more about the world around you, you need to be willing to put in the effort, which is only possible with self-motivation.
13) Awareness of interests and abilities
For a lot of people, they float through life and do what they can with the situations they find themselves in. Lifelong learners are curious about themselves and their abilities, and for this reason, they learn where their strengths and skills are.
With this awareness, they can use those abilities to their advantage and push themselves for better things.
In addition, knowing what interests you can give you a target to push towards, so you always know what you should be learning more about. If we aren’t sure about what we like, we might spend time on the wrong things. But when we know, we know where it is worth putting our efforts, and as a result, we will see the most significant outcomes.
14) Determination to succeed where they put effort
A vital characteristic of a lifelong learner is a determination to succeed. In other words, if you want to have something, you need to be willing to work towards it; otherwise, it isn’t going to happen. Many people are ok to have what is handed to them, they don’t push themselves or look for more than what they have, but those people are less likely to see the success they seek.
We need to be willing to push ourselves to get it; if we don’t, we need to accept that nothing will change.
Anything important requires a strong sense of determination because things will get in our way if we let them.
Being a lifelong learner is a lifelong task, so it requires dedication and commitment. Anything worth having takes time, so we need to be willing to put up with a lot if we what to accomplish anything of significance, even the pursuit of knowledge.