Self-Educating As We Grow Older

When you are relatively young and you have completed your formal education, you may often feel as thought you still have many things to learn. If you did not feel that way, it would be surprising. Often, you may may realize that there is a certain advanced skill which you may only have at a basic level. Perhaps you need to have at the level required to make significant progress in your field.  As it turned out, acquiring the skill at a level that now seems obvious and necessary was not remotely on your radar screen earlier, because you were quite busy learning the basics. You were not yet in the kind of more advanced career track when it’s more obvious that in time, that without improvement, you will be held back in career advancement.

In general, you know how to learn things on your own, you are reasonably confident in your ability to learn, thus most will find little difficulty in setting up a self-learning strategy and following it with the necessary enthusiasm. Not everyone will approach such a task with the necessary levels of enthusiasm, effort and productivity. Most will, in fact, make good progress after taking decisive action.

When you realize you are beginning to apply what you have learned to your still developing career, and you start working outside your comfort zone, you keep things simple initially, and make small but steady improvements and generally keep a positive approach while you learn from your mistakes. Effectively, your progress may be tracked or measured to a degree by those to whom you report. You may not even be aware of that until one day one of them notes what a great job you are doing and that your skills in the area of interest are very good or even exceptional.

Later, as your career develops, other skill development may be necessary, but none so important that skill developed earlier. In any event, you are aware of how to set up a program of study and make the requisite progress. Those to whom you report have by now made you part of the team, and they may be giving you some guidance on ancillary skill development or even some on the job skill training. Thus some of what you will go through will not actually require that you go through setting up your own self-teaching program and proceeding, for the most part, without any help from anyone other than yourself.

At or near the end of your work life, if you’ve learned what you needed to learn as you’ve gone along, chances are you have a good knowledge of how to be an effective self learner. But, after you have retired you will likely see things differently for a while. What you have done every day for the last 30 years or so has suddenly disappeared. Of course, you may have prepared for it, but even excellent preparation, that may have included an additional self-educating experience or more, will not disguise the fact that your days are greatly different. You may have the leisure to set the agenda for the day much more completely that you have been able to do for some time. There is bound to be some unspoken underlying fear emerging on a day to day basis. You can work on dealing with these fears before they become stresses.

After reviewing things you may find that regaining some physical strength and some changes in eating habits may be necessary–you may have mainly sat behind a desk for 30 years.  You may want to set up some different kinds of mental stimulation and perhaps read a few books you’ve been meaning to find time to get to for years. Listen to music. Watch a funny movie. Laugh a lot. You can also volunteer. Remember we are social animals. Get involved, but don’t over do it.

For some at this stage mental attitude is critical. You may even want to develop a new career. Why not? Many at an advanced age have learned new skills or improved on earlier skills and used them to great advantage. They write, paint, do other things. It may be constantly valuable at any age to ask, what am I learning that is new? Some reinvention of yourself may be important also. At least think about it.


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