5 tips for being an active learner at every stage of life

There are many reasons to maintain a lifelong thirst for knowledge. Many people believe continuous skill acquisition is a critical factor for retaining professional relevance. Being knowledgeable about a broad range of topics equips one to engage in a diverse set of subject matter. And, learning is fulfilling.

Being a lifelong learner isn't just a decision, according to John Coleman's recent article in the Harvard Business Review. Mr. Coleman, coauthor of the book Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders, says persistent learning is a habit that must be cultivated over time.

Here are five tips for developing the learning habit, according to the report.

1. Articulate your desired outcomes. The desire to learn can be motivated by various things. Are you trying to master a new subject? Is your object to stay up-to-date on certain topics outside of your day-to-day work? Do you aim to enrich your conversations and intellectual activity by studying various new topics? Identifying one or two outcomes will help you set goals that will make the learning habit stick, according to Mr. Coleman.

2. Make your goals realistic. It's important to set a series of realistic goals that will support your learning objectives. Mr. Coleman recommends outlining long-term goals and short-term goals that will enable one to achieve them. For example, if one's long-term goal is to read 24 new books in a year, his or her short-term goal to support that might be reading for 25 minutes per day for five days a week.

3. Become part of a learning community. Book clubs, writers' workshops or organizations focused on specific topics are all ample opportunities to connect and engage with others who share the same passion for learning. Belonging to these groups increases commitment and makes learning more enjoyable by adding a social component, according to Mr. Coleman.

4. Tune out distractions. Learning requires attention and concentration. Multitasking and use of certain types of technology, such as cell phones and email, can prevent one from reaching the level of concentration needed for learning. While reading or engaging in other educational media, minimize distractions and interruptions.

5. Take advantage of helpful technology. Although technology could be distracting, it can also be used to supplement learning. For example, Massive Open Online Courses provide learning communities that include some of the world's leading experts on a variety of topics, according to Mr. Coleman. Podcasts, audiobooks and other tools can also be educational.

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