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Learning to Live and Living to Learn: The Key to Contentment

Learning to Live and Living to Learn: The Key to Contentment

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By Laurie L. Barnes, Ph.D.
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University

There are many well-known quotations and remarks about living life to the fullest and engaging in continuous learning. In reality, both are extremely important in keeping our minds active and our lives meaningful. Indeed, we should all learn to live and live to learn.

Learning Is a Lifelong Process

Learning takes many forms and doesn’t just involve formal, structured classrooms. In fact, continuous growth in our jobs and personal lives requires continuous learning.

Formal education is important, especially for earning credentials to get that dream job. However, learning should not stop there.

After all, how many workplaces do not require you to continuously learn and change? Constant learning is a habit that affects every facet of your life.

Whether we want to learn a new recipe, a new dance or new martial arts skills, we are engaging in a learning process. It is important to follow our passions, explore our curiosities and continuously grow, so that we develop both personally and professionally.

It’s Also Important to Embrace Life Each Day

Although embracing life seems like a cliché in many ways, it is something that far too many people fail to do. Embracing life does not mean skipping work and school to sit by the pool or watch television all day.

Instead, take some time to really self-reflect and consider what matters most to you on a personal level. What’s important to you could mean anything from spending time with family, engaging in a hobby, playing in the park with your dog, or even sitting in silence and meditating. Personal reflection is something that is unique to each individual, but it carries great meaning and adds value to your life.

Determining the Balance between Work and Life

We often feel bombarded with articles and helpful tips on finding a work-life balance. But a work-life balance is actually something that is personal to each individual and varies over time.

There is no perfect mold for finding this balance, but you know when you feel “off balance,” overwhelmed and stressed. It may seem as if there are never enough hours in a day to get your work done.

This “balance” also varies from day to day. The key to contentment is your ability to find both enjoyment and achievement in life each day.

In pondering the notion of learning to live and living to learn, however, should we really seek a balance? When we strive to learn new skills or ideas, the learning should relate to what sparks our passions, curiosities and interests.

We should all want to continuously learn on a personal and professional level; this process should include learning how to live the best lives we can. For me, this included taking guitar and golf lessons. They were skills I always wanted to learn because they are enjoyable and relaxing. They add more fun and purpose to my life.

Helpful Tips for Continuous Learning

The path to continuous learning is different for each person. Here are a few tips to help you on this journey:

1. Reflect. Take some time in a quiet space to reflect on your current life. Are you happy with the direction of things now? Are there things you wish to do differently? Are you getting the most from life? Do you feel you are acting to help your growth and development, both personally and professionally?

2. Decide. If there are things you want to change or you feel there are things you need to do to learn and grow, ask yourself a few basic questions: Are there opportunities to learn new things in your workplace that can help you in some way? Do you have hobbies that interest you, but you have never taken the time to explore them? Is there a college class, certificate or degree program that sparks a passion in you and could lead to greater things in your life?

3. Act. Once you have decided what you would like to do, take the steps to move forward. Begin by researching information on what you would like to do, write down your goals and assign them time frames for completion. Some goals may be long-term quests, such as gaining a new professional certification.

You should consider both short-term and long-term goals. Can you pursue some of your interests within a short time frame? Are there any smaller steps you can take now to move in the direction of a long-term goal? Once you get these ideas written down, visit them regularly, remind yourself why they are there and take action to achieve them.

There is no time like the present to begin reflecting and considering how you can engage in this “learn to live and live to learn” approach each day.

About the Author

Dr. Laurie Barnes is an adjunct faculty member with American Public University and has been teaching online for over 10 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Virginia Tech, an MBA from Saint Leo University and a Ph.D. in management from Capella University. Through her work in management and consulting, she has embraced a real passion for continuous learning as well as helping others to create their best journeys, both personally and professionally.

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