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Chances are, you lead a busy life. Which means your brain’s already packed with the information you need to get

woman-looking-massive-libraryChances are, you lead a busy life. Which means your brain’s already packed with the information you need to get through the day. So why bother carving out time to learn something new when you don’t need to?

Because few feelings are as empowering and as enriching as that of discovering new insights about yourself and the world around you.

There’s no denying the joy and sense of self-worth that comes from solving a mystery, finding the solution to a problem, or acquiring a new skill. The feeling that comes from developing your curiosity and experiencing a sense of wonder is unlike any other and the key to living a fulfilling life.

And this sense of curiosity shouldn’t stop when school ends. Rather, it’s something that should always be cultivated at any age.

Why education should be a lifelong pursuit

The United States, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, is a nation of lifelong learners. Whether you’re looking to improve your professional skills (such as time management and public speaking) or explore different avenues of interest (such as the nature of black holes or everyday life in ancient Greece), you can turn to education as an outlet for enrichment, growth, and change. And resources like The Great Courses Plus make that easy to do.

According to the Pew Research Center’s study, there are several major reasons people see education as a lifelong pursuit and not just a short-term goal. Lifelong learning helps people:

  • make their life more interesting and full,
  • be more effective in helping others,
  • pursue extra interests in their free time,
  • transform a hobby into a possible profession, and
  • help their children and grandchildren succeed in school.

Our ever-evolving brains

There’s a biological component to ongoing personal development, and it’s rooted in the concept of brain plasticity, which underlies learning and memory.

Scientists today understand that our brains act in many ways like plastic. Over time, the human brain can be molded into many different shapes—a concept that’s caused a radical paradigm shift in the field of neuroscience.

And key part of brain plasticity is (you guessed it) learning new ideas.

Improving your social and emotional health

Lifelong learning plays an important impact on your health. Keeping your mind active and sharp is great for cognitive improvement, but it can also have other effects on your social and emotional life (according to the Pew Research Center), including:

  • helping you feel more capable and well-rounded,
  • opening up new perspectives on your everyday life, and
  • instilling a more connected feeling with your community

people-playing-chess

Learning wherever—and whenever—you want

Alright. Let’s say you’re curious about how to play chess or the military battles that shaped the world or what today’s science has to say about the origin of life on Earth. How do you go about acquiring this knowledge?

What’s great about our present day is that new technology has made it more convenient than ever for us to learn new ideas and information whenever we want to—and wherever we happen to be. Knowledge is no longer confined to university campuses, and it doesn’t come at the cost of an expensive college degree. Rather, it’s everywhere around you.

Seventy-four percent of adults in the Pew Research Center study describe themselves as “personal learners” who’ve participated in numerous activities in the last year designed to advance their knowledge and, by extension, their personal development.

So how are they choosing to keep learning?

1. Take online classes

Whether you’re on your home computer or on the subway with your smartphone, you can now get in-depth, insightful college learning experiences on pretty much any topic imaginable. One digital subscription service, The Great Courses Plus, offers video and audio lectures on everything from literature, writing, physics, and history, to stress management, investing, and even wine.

2. Read more books

Love printed books? Prefer reading on a screen? Either way, reading is one of the most fundamental parts of learning, and it’s an easy way to stay up to speed on the latest information and ideas. And free books are available everywhere, through digital resources like Project Gutenberg or The Internet Archive and at your local library.

3. Attend special events

Maybe it’s a lecture at your local museum or a book club that meets once a month at your neighborhood library. Whatever the event, if it’s on a subject that interests you, it’s worth it to stop by and check it out. Chances are you’ll learn something new, meet like-minded individuals, and come away with your curiosity sparked.

Never stop learning, never stop growing

In recent years, educational researchers around the world have been more and more interested in studying the effects of lifelong learning and the difference it can make in your personal life. What they’ve found: continuing to learn after you leave school is as much about growing as it is about acquiring facts.

It’s a concept psychologist Abraham Maslow was on to when he developed his famous hierarchy of needs in the 1940s. At the top of his pyramid: self-actualization, or the drive to reach your fullest potential.

So whether you pick up a book, watch an online lecture series, or join a guided tour through a museum, it’s important to never stop learning. Sure, you won’t be required to do homework, write papers, or take exams. But the curiosity you’ll cultivate and the wonder you’ll discover will be far more rewarding—and more memorable—than a simple grade.