The way we learn in the 21 st century is dramatically different from how we learned in previous decades. Learning is no longer linked, in the main, to a formal classroom setting for a defined period of your life. Technology has altered the way we are able to gain access to knowledge and many of us need a complete shift in the way we view and value learning. This article looks at how we can make our education part of a lifelong process that can impact positively on our health and wealth.

In the 20th century, the education process for most people had a finite beginning and ending. Mostly, it finished with either secondary or tertiary education. Life was linear: early childhood, formal education, career, retirement, death.

Since then there has been a massive shift in the way learning is experienced and, for many of us, this means an adjustment in the way we view and value it. The driving mechanism behind this change in the way we access knowledge is technology. How did we manage without Google? Encyclopedias are now the dinosaurs of information-gathering for the majority of scholars.

Happily, that linear pattern has now evolved into something more complex and stimulating: life is a now a cyclic journey of work and play and information harvesting.

It’s all about attitude

Learning should be part of our everyday life. But sometimes we do need to unlearn before we can relearn. And this is when the right attitude can be as invaluable a tool as any tutor, website or library. Learning comes in many forms and the way in which some things are done nowadays is vastly different to how or what we were taught. Here the unlearning process proves vital to help one move forward.

What stops one getting a degree or a new qualification later in life? Is it time? Is it money? It could very likely be a mindset, an inflexibility to move in a different direction. But learning need not be about lessons in a classroom setting. To learn a new language, you may want to go and spend time in a foreign country. You could jump on the information highway and add to your education through webinars (seminars on the web), watching YouTube downloads, and linking into organisations like TED – Ideas Worth Spreading ( ). Whether it’s online or face-to-face, there is something for you out there, from courses and lectures to workshops, to summer and winter schools – you and your attitude are the only limiting factor.

Mike is a teacher who has decided to extend his skills into teaching English as a foreign language. This is part of his long-term goal for retirement: he wants to travel and earn money on this journey by teaching English.

Ongoing learning should be part of your planning process around managing your life. It should definitely form part of the discussion you have with your financial adviser, as your ability to earn money is linked to your learning journey. The longer you are able to earn an income, the less you need to draw down from your investments, and it is good for your financial and mental health.

Joe has been upgrading his photographic skils. This has always been a passion and he plans to supplement his pension through photographic commissions. This will help ensure he draws down the bare minimum from his investments in the early years of his retirement.

Peter is doing a series of workshops on social media and their applications in order to have a better understanding of cyber-communication tools. He will use them to help better plan and implement a burgeoning business strategy.

Information filters

Social media has dramatically changed the way we access and process information. Where do you go when you want an answer? In the past, you may have let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages telephone directory. Nowadays you have access to thought leaders on any subject across the globe. Just look at Twitter and its application Twellow, a search directory of people by area of expertise, profession or other attributes listed in personal profiles. By using your network to ask questions you are effectively employing a filter, and your answer will be better than if you waded through a million links via Google.

Investment and financial education is no longer a subject just for the qualified financial adviser. Every consumer has the ability and tools to better inform the decisions they must make on their life journey. The challenge is when you have access to a heap of information and do not have an expert you can tap into to guide you. In this era of information overload you would do well to have a specialist you trust to help ensure the decisions you make are well thought through.

Work that brain!

If you engage your brain, you engage your body. Neuro-pathways from your brain are communicating all the time with your cells and muscles as multiple messages whiz back and forth. The merging of the mind and body creates a holistic connection that is critical for health and wellness.

Ongoing learning is a boost for several reasons. It:

  • Exploits our natural abilities and closes the gaps in our abilities.
  • Immerses us in the wonders of the world.
  • Teaches us to look beyond the surface.
  • Stimulates our natural curiosity about the world around us.
  • Enables us to face the inevitable changes in technology and society.

Check your attitude to learning. What is getting in the way? Find a way back to stimulating your brain and re-engaging with life and interesting conversations. Watch the world around you become a much more interesting place to visit.