Even though as kids we all counted down the days, weeks, months, and years until school was over, we’re never really done learning. That’s part of the beauty (and sometimes frustration) of being human—we’re always evolving. So we rounded up five ways to never stop learning because life never stops teaching!
But before we dive into the list, let's answer the important question of "Why should we never stop learning?"
Why should we never stop learning?
First of all, learning is not an activity that we should keep in a classroom. Sometimes I think our society puts so much emphasis on “education” but forgets about how true learning happens every day.
I spent fifteen years as a high school teacher. While teaching as a profession is certainly admirable and important, it can be risky to talk about learning as if it only happens at school. What if we kept living the same way at age 35 or 50 as we did when we were eighteen? Yikes!
We have to continually adapt to our circumstances—that’s how life never stops teaching us. Things happen, and we respond. How we respond is in our control, so we should never stop learning how to do better.
5 Fantastic ways to never stop learning
Some of the lessons we absorb over time aren’t ones we choose. The job market changes, relationships grow closer (or apart), and financial circumstances evolve. But the good thing is that we can be deliberate about learning.
Think about these five key ways to never stop learning because life never stops teaching, so you might as well make the most of it!
1. Read continuously
What’s the first skill most people learn as children? Other than listening and speaking, we focus on reading—and for good reason. Reading remains an excellent way of learning, whether we’re four, forty, or eighty-four years old.
Read fiction to learn empathy and spark creativity
If you hear the word “fiction” and you think fluffy, leisure, or unimportant, think again. Reading fiction is also a great way to learn vital life skills (ones that are hard to teach in a classroom).
Studies show that reading fiction can help people learn empathy. And come on, has there ever been a better time in the world to learn a little empathy?
The Harvard Business Review reports on studies that suggest fiction reading can develop greater empathy. Basically, reading fictional scenarios allows you, the reader, to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. You won’t always necessarily agree with the characters in a book, but you can learn to see things from their perspective.
Reading fiction can also spark your own creativity in ways that nonfiction might not. You can read fifty books on entrepreneurship and starting a side hustle, but reading a novel about it could bring the concept to life in a deeper way.
Read nonfiction to learn new skills
Now, just as fiction has its place, nonfiction reading is one of the best ways to acquire new skills. We never stop learning, and nonfiction reading resources can be wonderful guides along our way.
Do you want to learn about how to simplify your life and your possessions? Check out these 15 books on minimalism to help you find the path that works for you. Perhaps you’re passionate about lowering your environmental footprint to ensure the planet is still livable for your great-great-grandkids: why not learn about sustainable living?
Personal finance is a favorite topic of mine—I literally never stop learning about finance because life never stops teaching. The best financial choice can evolve over time, and the financial advice I follow might not work for you. Checking out these financial literacy books and these finance books written by Black women to learn something new.
Reading is accessible in many ways to help you never stop learning
One of the great aspects of reading is that there are so many ways to get your information. I mean, I’m a fan of the old-school books printed on real paper, but other formats are just as awesome.
If you find it hard to get a free moment to sit down and just read a book, you can try audiobooks. They make it easy to never stop learning since they’re more convenient for many of us who are on the go. You can speed up the narration if you need to and even do other tasks while listening.
And don’t forget about reading things other than books! You can sign up to receive educational newsletters via email, read informative blogs, and get your information from magazines and newspapers, either in print or online. One article or newsletter at a time, you can become an expert in investing, cooking, DIY, or whatever interests you.
2. Utilize audio resources
Of course, we already touched on this a little bit in the reading section, since most books are available in audio formats these days. But there are plenty of other listening-focused learning resources to help you never stop learning. Podcasts and radio programs, as well as videos, are great ways to arm yourself with knowledge.
Podcasts can teach you anything
Even though I also love a good book in my hands, I’ve fallen in love with podcasts over the past several years. It’s just so much fun to hear people’s voices as they talk about whatever I’m interested in.
Of course, we can’t talk about podcasts without mentioning financial literacy podcasts like the Clever Girls Know Podcast, So Money with Farnoosh Torabi, and Brown Ambition. There are a ton of great podcasts by a diverse set of voices, so you can focus on whatever aspects of personal finance you want to learn.
Want to learn how to start passive real estate investing? Or how about how to start a profitable blog? Or the differences between term life insurance and whole life insurance? You can find podcasts that cover thousands of topics from different angles, enabling you to truly never stop learning.
Video resources help in the quest to never stop learning
Are you more of a visual and auditory learner? Then video is a great way to learn new information and acquire new skills. Let me tell you, during the pandemic when my kids were home doing virtual school, YouTube and other video resources were lifesavers.
Maybe you want to steer clear of haul videos or others that could drive you to buy more stuff you don’t need. But just think of all the information out there. Using video courses and free videos you find online, life can keep on teaching.
Whether you want to learn about personal finance (check out the Clever Girl Finance channel), woodworking, gardening, entrepreneurship, history, or any number of topics, check your library or online for great video resources.
3. Experience new things
“Experience is a hard teacher. She gives the test first and the lessons afterwards.” This quote from Vernon Sanders Law is so true, isn’t it? So many of our most powerful lessons have to come through experience rather than being taught in any other way.
Just think about how children learn. I bet if you think back, you’ll remember a lesson your parents or teachers tried to tell you.
But you didn’t really learn until you got the experience and either failed or succeeded. Though some lessons we hear might stick long-term, we learn more from experience than lectures.
We truly never stop learning because life never stops teaching us through our experiences. Every event in your past has a part in shaping your present and future.
Change your routine to keep learning
One simple way to never stop learning is to force a small change in your routine. You might take a different route to work once a week or try eating with your non-dominant hand.
Perhaps you normally down four cups of coffee every morning—you could try switching up your routine and drink tea for a change.
I think the best part about changing your routines is that it forces you to think about things differently. Even though developing great daily routines is important to many people’s success, that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible at times.
What may come to mind first is routines or habits you’d like to break. For instance, if you’re often "doomscrolling" at night for an hour before bed, you can start leaving your phone off and in another room. Try it for a few days and see how you feel. Taking a social media detox could work the same way.
The idea is to take something you take for granted or assume you have to do, and just try doing something different. You might spark new creativity, give up a harmful habit, or just gain an appreciation for something you didn’t have before.
Attend conferences or classes in your quest to never stop learning
Now that the world is slowly easing back into pre-pandemic ways, you may find that in-person conferences are in full swing. Or, even if you’re unable to attend physically, plenty of educational conferences offer virtual options.
Going to a conference in your career field can help you gain networking skills, explore new technologies or trends, and have fun. I love a good conference; I get away from my home, get out of my comfort zone, and meet new people with shared interests.
A great alternative to conferences is to sign up for classes in your area (or online). You can take classes that are just a single session or those that last a few weeks or months.
Whether you need professional development for your job or you just want to unwind at a pottery class, you’re definitely still learning.
Become a beginner in something
Along the same lines as conferences and classes, try to adopt a beginner’s mindset to ensure you’ll never stop learning. Beginner’s mind, which comes from Zen Buddhism, entails “having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”
There’s something really amazing about being a beginner in something, whether it’s chess or surfing or researching the stock market. You don’t have the preconceived notions of what’s right to hold you back, and your mind is open to being filled.
In the book “Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning,” author Tom Vanderbilt explains how his young daughter inspired him to become a beginner again. Instead of trying to become an expert in something through 10,000 hours of practice as Malcolm Gladwell discusses, he wanted to simply try new things.
Vanderbilt notes that as adults, we lose our childlike ability to just try. “We’re afraid of just being OK at things.” So is there something you would like to try, not to impress anyone or to gain a new career, but only to enrich your life?
Learn through failure
Although it might feel difficult; you never stop learning because life never stops teaching through failure. “When failure is not an option, we can forget about creativity, learning, and innovation.”
Brené Brown has remarked on the power of failure in helping us to learn. If we adopt the mindset that we will fail sometimes, we won’t be so afraid of learning.
I love the idea of encouraging kids to fail sometimes because what we think of as failure really can be a great teacher. There are some great reasons that failure is a part of success, such as learning what not to do next time and helping others on their journey.
While no one wants to fail in big ways, maybe it’s a good idea to embrace small failures. For example, try allowing your kids to fail with money. Perhaps they’ve spent their entire allowance and then see something they really want to buy.
Instead of bailing them out by paying for everything, don’t reward your kids for not planning or saving. Allowing them to be upset about something that costs $5 or $10 when they’re young just might be the lesson they’ll remember when the stakes are higher (thousands or tens of thousands of dollars).
You can do the same thing for yourself by embracing the idea of failure, or at least letting go of perfectionism. You’re not supposed to be great at everything on the first try. Let yourself mess up and do things imperfectly and you’ll never stop learning.
4. Learn through relationships
Along with books and other educational resources, the people you surround yourself with are great teachers. Now, that doesn’t always mean you like everyone you meet, but that everyone has something to show you.
Some relationships are there to teach you patience, while others are there to offer unconditional love. You might have some friends who show you how to be spontaneous or more organized or more financially responsible. We never stop learning from the people that surround us.
Join a group to get to know new people
Of course, one of the best ways to let life teach you is by joining social groups. You might already have plenty of friends and acquaintances. However, if you’ve got time for something new, a group could be a great way to branch out.
One of the best ways I’ve connected with new friends is by seeking out people with similar interests. When we moved to a different state, I Googled yoga and running groups in my area. Using social media to discover these local groups led me to find group activities where I could easily connect with people.
The great thing about these groups is that you can tailor your choices to what interests you most. Look online or in the newspaper and try out a group—you don’t have to commit for a lifetime. You can also learn new skills this way, connecting with others while trying a new activity.
Seek out friendships with those who are different from you
After you think about making friends with people because of your shared interests, remember that differences can teach a lot as well. You can never stop learning if you continually look for ways to know people who might think or act differently.
One of the hard parts about social media is that it makes it fairly easy for us to tune out voices that we disagree with. We can “snooze” or “unfriend” people or groups that share differing opinions. And I admit it—I’ve done that a few times, too.
Sometimes, people let you down. It’s just inevitable, right? But it can still be healthy to have at least one or two friends that challenge you in ways that others don’t. They can make you think through your beliefs so you don’t just exist in an echo chamber where everyone looks and acts the same.
If you’re working towards paying off debt, that doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself off totally from your spendy buddies. You just need to make sure they know where you stand. That’s where setting financial boundaries is necessary.
So even if you aren’t BFFs with the person who is your total opposite, maybe you can still learn a thing or two from her. Don’t be afraid of a little disagreement. (But remember to set healthy boundaries!)
Virtual relationships can help you keep learning, too
While talking to a friend online or in a Zoom call isn’t quite the same as in-person, those virtual relationships are worthwhile. Through the power of technology, it’s possible to meet people who live all over the world.
Even though it’s great the world is opening up to more get-togethers, some relationships just can’t be in person all the time. If you have family or friends living across the country or overseas, harness the power of technology to grow closer to them.
How great is it that you can also join a book club with people from any location? Or learn about personal finance via online courses? These virtual relationships can be a way to make sure you never stop learning because there are almost no limits to what you can do.
5. Improve your personal finances
To be financially successful and secure, you never really finish getting a financial education. Just as your relationships and your job might change, your financial circumstances will change all your life as well.
Plus did you know you can get paid to read and earn extra income to put toward your financial goals?
Different financial phases call for different behaviors
When it comes to finances, it’s important to never stop learning because life never stops teaching. Why is flexibility so important? Because your financial picture keeps changing.
Think about it. When you’re seven years old, a couple of dollars seems like a fortune (that’s what my son tells me.) Then by high school, you might be earning a few hundred or even a thousand bucks a month. That number likely keeps growing as you get older.
Your view of money, how much it’s worth, and how difficult (or easy) it is to keep shifts throughout your life’s seasons. So be sure to adapt your financial decisions based on your current circumstances.
Financial literacy can help you guide others to improve their finances
One of the great things about always having a learner’s mindset is that you can have more compassion for others. Maybe you’ve paid off a mountain of debt. That’s amazing! You can celebrate—and maybe even go out and teach others how to do it.
The more I learn about finance, the more I can see that it’s truly a personal thing, and no one’s finances are exactly like mine. I can imagine some of what others are facing, like financial stress, but I can’t walk in their shoes.
As you learn more about finance, don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned with others. Let personal finance be a normal topic of conversation instead of taboo.
When we open up to friends and family about money, including our struggles as well as our successes, we all benefit.
Remember to never stop learning because life never stops teaching!
Part of the beauty and difficulty of life is that things are always changing. That is why it's important that we never stop learning when it comes to all aspects of our life, including our finances.
Just when you reach one financial goal, there’s another one coming up right after it. So remember to never stop learning because life never stops teaching.