Be A Lifelong Learner

If you were to develop one skill to help you in all aspects of your life, what would it be?

Studies have shown that one of the best gifts you can give yourself is to become a lifelong learner. What exactly is a Lifelong Learner? A simple definition is that it is someone that “engages in  the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”  Why should you be a Lifelong Learner? Because, quite simply, without learning, the mind stagnates.

Thankfully, becoming a lifelong learner isn’t hard. Below are ten easy ways to build a habit of learning that will serve you in years to come.


Unless you make lifelong learning a priority, you’re not going to do it. You start with committing to change and then go from there.

Create a Personalised Learning Environment

True learning results when you take charge of your learning environment. Sit down with your mentor and make concrete goals. Set up a system that enables you to learn and a setting in which you can learn. Once you have this, you are truly ready to begin.


Read books, magazines, news articles, academic journals, and anything that catches your attention. If it’s interesting to you, then it’s worth perusing.

Keep a List

Have a question? Write it down. Come back to this list later and Google the answers. Let this become the jumping off point for learning new things.


Create a project out of one of the things you find interesting. Set goals, give a timeline, and a final deadline to complete it. Invite others to take part in your project with you. You learn so much more when you collaborate. Create milestones and celebrate each one on your road to completion.


Engage with and socialize with  people who also enjoy learning. These will become your encouragers and mentors along the way.

Become a Mentor Yourself

We all have something we’re good at and could help others learn. Your particular skill set might be what someone else needs to succeed. By getting involved in mentoring, you find yourself not only cementing the knowledge you already have but learning new things as well.

Study with Others

When you work with a group, it’s generally easier to learn as you can draw upon the base of shared knowledge. That, in turn, helps you to discover new things yourself.

Seek out a Job that Encourages Lifelong Learning

The final step toward lifelong learning is to find work where you are encouraged to learn new things, and which continually challenges you.

Remember, building habits that lead to lifelong learning relies on repetition. Consciously engage in learning activities as often as possible, making them a part of every single day if you can, for optimal success.

Being Mindful You Are Always Learning

We have all heard that experience is a great teacher. Each day of our lives is  packed with numerous experiences. Many of these experiences are everyday occurrences such as walking the dog or doing the washing up after dinner. Others are less common. Occasionally, some are so unique that they are literally life changing. However, whether the experience is mundane or out of this world, it offers us a learning moment.

Most of us will, hopefully, come away from a unique experience with a fresh perspective. Yet, few of us grasp the learning opportunity that is present in the day-today activities that, by necessity, take up the majority of our time. Buddhists call this awareness of the learning potential in the commonplace “mindfulness.”

When you begin to be mindful, you see that everything that you do has merit. You start to realise that no matter what you are doing, you can do it better. In our working lives and in our personal interactions, this means that we begin to pay closer attention to every task. You understand that each task fits into others and together they comprise the whole of your activity. If you take a shortcut or cut corners on the smallest of things it only serves to undermine the largest and seemingly most important things.

Likewise, when you attempt to do the most basic of jobs to the very best of your ability this mindful mindset carries over into other areas and brings a new awareness and sense of achievement.

So, use every experience, every day, as a moment to learn. Be mindful of bad or lazy behaviours and work to change them into more positive and productive actions. If you recognise that you are always learning then you will find real benefit from being aware of what you are learning and using that learning.

Learning Isn’t Just For Learning At Work Week

As I write it’s Learning at Work Week here in the UK and that set me thinking about how much learning takes place without there needing to be a formal structure to it.

I can think of so many instances where I have learnt something which I have then been able to apply in my own work. As an example I well recall being in a meeting where the discussion was getting quite heated and noticing how the person chairing the meeting dealt with it to diffuse the situation and leave all parties happy. That was real learning at work which I was able to observe, reflect on, implement when I encountered a similar situation and then evaluate the learning that had occurred.

Now, I am not suggesting that for Learning at Work Week you go in search of heated discussions in meetings! However, I want to look at some ways in which you and I can learn without having to participate in a formal “learning” event.

Start With a Personal Learning Journal or Portfolio.

Learning at Work is not a simple A to B journey from a single goal to a single outcome, it is a process of continuous discovery and a Personal Learning Portfolio or Learning Journal helps you to keep track of and reflect on what you have learnt and discovered as you progress. You might be thinking that it seem a little time consuming to record your findings and thoughts but I have consistently found that being able to revisit the notes I have made over the years has sparked new learning and new avenues to investigate so it is something I highly recommend to you.

Engage With Your Colleagues

Talking to colleagues about what they are doing, what they have learnt or discovered, how they have tackled issues and so offers a wealth of opportunities to learn from them. People love to talk about their successes and as you establish a rapport with people they will be more open to talking about the failures that led to their successes. Engage with your colleagues at work and talk about how they overcame problems, what approaches they took to particular issues and challenges and how they managed to deal with them. Look around you now, if you are reading this at work, and just consider for a moment the amazing opportunities for personal learning that are available from the collective experience and knowledge of your colleagues!

Chat with them about their experiences, so that you can learn from past problems, develop potential solutions and work towards improving your performance – both as an individual and ultimately as a department or organisation.

Informal Group/Social Interactions

Following on from this idea of learning at work by talking with colleagues, there are many ways to use social, informal learning to interact with others in the workplace. If there are a group of you who would like to learn about the role of an individual within the organisation or perhaps discover how someone deals with their challenges then why not invite them to a lunchtime or after work session with a whiteboard in the staffroom? It can be a great way to share ideas and to learn new things. The results achieved are not just about personal, individual gains; the group effort can also improve interpersonal skills and even help with communication between departments.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Obviously you are keeping up to date with what is happening within your own workplace and staying on top of the goals of the organisation and the challenges it faces. However think about expanding your horizons,to keep up to date with news and events in your industry as a whole.

This can be done in many ways: social media is a great tool for engaging with other in the industry which I talked about in my post Social Media for Learning. But in summary, online discussion groups with others in similar roles offer an informal forum for discussion, news outlets are a constant source of up-to-date information and blogs can offer insights on potential trends and forecasts with alternative viewpoints. Gather as much information as possible and don’t be put off by the source – speculation on a niche blog from a real professional in your industry can be a great way of learning new things and stretching your mind.

I wrote about taking up the opportunities which many organisations offer to learn new things outside of work. If that is something that appeals to you and you want or need to learn aboout project management, public speaking, leadership and much more do take a look at A World of Learning Opportunities.

Enjoy Learning at Work week if you are in the UK! Take the opportunity to start the incredible journey available to you and remember Learning isn’t just for Learning at Work Week – it’s for ever!

A World Of Learning Opportunities With JCI

I have quite often talked about JCI (Junior Chamber International) and the opportunities that it presented me with. It opened up a whole world of learning opportunities for me and helped me to develop many of the skills which I highlight on my CV Website at Paul Duxbury – Learning and Development Professional.

I have always been a keen advocate of people taking responsibility for their own learning opportunities especially if they are keen to progress in their careers. If you haven’t considered getting involved in something like JCI then let me tell you a little about it and my experience of being a member.

Junior Chamber International is one of the largest non-political and non-sectarian youth service organizations. It is an international organisation for men and women between the ages of 18 to 40 which has the aim and purpose of creating positive change in the world. They provide the opportunity to develop management and leadership skills through practical involvement in projects complimented by formal training sessions, conferences and other activities.

During my time as a member and in time a local, regional and national officer I was involved in projects which enabled me to develop and improve my knowledge and skills whilst at the same time contributing to improving the communities in which we worked. From being involved in, leading or organising training conferences, Manchester’s Lord Mayor’s Parade, The Outstanding Young People Programme, Prison Visiting, Schools Public Speaking competitions I was able to develop many skills as I took advantage of the world of learning opportunities which JCI offered.

I had the opportunity to hold various offices including Local Chamber President, Regional Group Chairman North West; National Awards Manager, National Public Speaking Project Manager, National Chamber Development Director and National Assigned Officer to Northern Ireland. Each of these roles afforded me the opportunity to learn and develop skills in public speaking, project management, team leadership and development, networking and negotiating and so many more.

JCI also offered me the opportunity to gain recognition taking part in National Debating Championships and National Public Speaking Championships and to train as a Trainer with JCI delivering training locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. I was also awarded the highest JCI Accolade a JCI Senatorship in recognition of the level of involvement and contribution to the organisation.

I credit JCI with enabling me to move into the Learning and Development profession at a management level. I well recall that when I applied for my first Training Management role I was competing with nearly 100 other applicants. Almost all of them had a formal Institute of Training and Development qualification and I was one of the few who didn’t. However, the experience and knowledge I had acquired through JCI coupled with my commitment to seeking out learning opportunities secured me the role.

So if you are open to learning opportunities why now take a look at JCI UK or if you are outside the UK start at JCI. You will discover a world of learning opportunities and you will not regret it!

Learning Opportunities Are Like Chocolates

Given that it’s Easter I have been thinking about chocolate! We cannot always have the choice of chocolate sweets we want but sometimes being open to the other choices available to us can help us to discover something new and enjoyable.

As much as it pains those of us who work in Learning and Development, nowadays in many organisations, justifying a spend on professional development of staff can be challenging. Unless we can show that there is a direct and almost immediate relationship between professional development and the bottom line the cost can be hard to justify. Even with a rigorous analysis of the Return on Investment (ROI) all too often at a time when money is tight we will find that the costs will not be agreed or our proposed solution will be watered down.

So, as I am sure you are all too aware many organisations really struggle with the idea of funding personal development that they cannot align with organisational bottom line improvements. Yet, we will be approached by enthusiastic individuals who want to develop themselves and make, as they perceive it, an improved contribution to the organisation. So how do we as Learning and Development professionals respond to those sort of approaches? We are of course keen to encourage individuals to develop themselves and don’t want to discourage them. But we know that the money will not be there for them to attend the course they have identified.

I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box when it comes to learning/personal development. It does not have to have a financial cost to the organisation at all. There are a wealth of opportunities for people to develop skills through volunteering, through joining organisations like Junior Chamber International (JCI) etc which they can pursue.

I believe that we as learning facilitators should be encouraging staff to think creatively about their learning opportunities. As an example in my early career I wanted to develop my public speaking skills so I joined an organisation (out of hours) which enabled me to do just that. If someone who wants to develop their leadership skills approaches you then why not talk to them about the opportunities in their local community or through voluntary organisations to develop those skills?

Equally if someone wants to learn how to chair meetings a simple way to start is to get them to observe the chair of meetings they attend, note the positive behaviours and those that don’t necessarily deliver results and then seek opportunities to practice those skils.

Being open to the learning opportunities all around us is something which many of us who work in the field are open to as individuals. Let’s not forget that they are also opportunities which we can encourage those who come to us looking for funding for training to consider as well. It might not be their first choice but like the chocolates they may discover something they really like!