Lifelong learning isn’t just some vague idea reserved for those thirsting for personal fulfillment. In fact, becoming a lifelong learner can have many amazing and lasting benefits for entrepreneurs and executives aiming to become better leaders, improve productivity and gain a key competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In other words, lifelong learning isn’t just important to personal development; it’s also an essential piece of the professional development process, integral to refining your skillset and generating the fresh ideas you need to thrive.

And by incorporating meaningful continuous learning habits into your daily routine, you too can become the lifelong learner your company needs to innovate and elevate your company to the next level.

Here’s a rundown of simple but powerful habits many lifelong learners commit to every day, self-directed learning techniques you can put into action today.

1. Proactively seeking opportunities to learn

Constant learning isn’t done by remaining idle. Lifelong learners understand the importance of being proactive. They are always on the lookout for opportunities to utilize free time to their professional benefit.

Whether it’s cracking open a self-help book, taking online classes, or attending a seminar, learners take every opening to improve and grow in what they do. A commitment to professional development demands no less.

For every free hour or day off on your schedule, make it a point not to jump on the couch or whittle your time away on social media, but to find a genuine opportunity to learn. Over time, shifting your perspective from “relax” to “engage” will help strengthen your learning habit. This soon becomes a baked-in resource of motivation that inspires your pursuit of new knowledge every day.

2. Reading every day

Chances are good that whatever small business crisis you’re facing, there are several pretty good books or articles out there that can help you solve it.

Devoting time each day to reading something–particularly books or online content related to what you do–can open doors you may never knew existed, providing all-new pathways for working with people and building processes that improve your operation. Setting aside time to read new material or even catch up on the latest industry news can provide valuable insight that results in better decision-making and sparks new ideas for approaching problems and developing solutions.

A daily reading habit is one of those lifelong learning tools that doesn’t just keep your brain healthy. It also helps unlock and enable critical thinking skills with endless applications. While reading is good for its own sake, it’s also an excellent way to absorb new lessons that benefit your career and your business over the long run.

In the spirit of self-education and professional and personal fulfillment, it’s important to square away time each day to read and reap the benefits of lifelong learning it has to offer.

3. Attending online courses

Just because you’ve already completed a formal education in high school or college doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep the classwork going. In fact, entrepreneurs now have a golden opportunity to continue learning and sharpen their skills through a seemingly endless variety of options. These include anything from online courses and programs to tutorials on industry-related subjects! And due to the nature and flexibility of most online education courses, you can complete those training modules and gain new knowledge when and where it fits your schedule.

New technologies have made classroom learning and popular courses more accessible than ever. What’s more: many universities now offer accredited courses and university instruction on the web. This provides a fantastic opportunity to access high-quality formal schooling curriculums from your home or office at any time.

For business owners aspiring to be lifelong learners, online courses can be a great addition to the continuous learning arsenal, providing a convenient but effective learning tool accessible at any point in their workplace schedule. Many online education resources are also available for free, connecting you with opportunities to improve your skills and understanding of critical subjects without eating into your budget.

4. Setting goals that challenge and inspire

Need a lifelong learning habit that boosts your self motivation? Setting specific learning goals each day could be the jolt you need to ramp up your personal development efforts, providing unique but challenging objectives that increase your knowledge while inspiring action.

Personal and professional goal building helps focus your learning targets, giving you specific goals that test what you know while also helping you stay motivated throughout the process. Research shows that setting specific goals can lead to better individual performance no matter what you’re pursuing. And incorporating new learning challenges (reading x pages, completing difficult training modules, etc.) may be precisely what you need to become the lifelong learner and better leader you aspire to be.

What’s more: learning or not, creating and overcoming new obstacles each day offers a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction hard to achieve otherwise. In turn, this helps to further cement goal-setting into your learning routine and ensure your lifetime adult education journey stays on the right track.

5. Shifting your learning perspective

Whatever lifelong learning journey you’re on, it’s important to realize that learning isn’t just about reading a book, earning an online course, or completing a university degree. While formal education and formal training programs certainly have their place in a learning society, they are far from the only resources you can tap for knowledge, self improvement, or transferable skills.

Anything from informal meetings and volunteer work to interviews and travel opportunities offers a great opportunity to engage in self-directed learning. It also allows you to absorb invaluable insight that broadens your knowledge base and sparks innovation in the workplace. Shifting your perspective and choosing to view daily interactions and new experiences through the lens of lifelong learning can be a great way to elevate your self education game to new heights.

Changing how you see and approach each new experience not only helps you become a better learner. It can also unveil a new concept or approach that helps your business become more efficient, effective, and profitable.

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