I've just re-entered paid employment after seventeen years of running my own business. It's an exciting time with so much to learn, including completing a range of inbound marketing certifications.
To my surprise, being suddenly thrust back into the world of lectures, study guides and assessments has summoned up some pretty intense emotions.
Probably most sobering has been the realisation that it's been more than twenty-five years since I last consciously undertook any type of formal learning! When I look back on my university experience, I still clearly recall the profound sense of relief I felt on handing in my “last-ever” assignment. It was almost as if the completion of my degree signified the "closing of the book" for my educational journey.
There is so much evidence to support the incredible value of continued learning, whether for work, creative development or personal enjoyment. This article from the Wall Street Journal about picking up a musical instrument later in life sums up so perfectly the huge benefits of maintaining life-long learning habits, whatever our age or background. What’s more, it is about seeing learning not as something to be ticked off a to-do list but as a fun, stimulating and creative process to be embraced.
So for me, there's no more thinking of learning as a finite goal. Slowly but surely I'm getting comfortable in the uncomfortable, and I'm cherishing the stimulation and reward that comes from taking on new challenges.
While putting ourselves in new and unfamiliar learning situations can create moments of discomfort or even self-doubt, those feelings are fleeting and are far-outweighed by the benefits.
Given today’s longer lifespans, it’s reasonable for most people to think that if they start playing an instrument in their 50s, they can keep on playing and improving for decades, whatever instrument they choose. Moreover, a growing body of research suggests that playing an instrument or singing in a choir can enhance emotional well-being, brain health, cognition and hearing function. “It’s extremely exciting,” says cognitive neuroscientist Julene Johnson, a professor at the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco. “My hope is that we think of creative engagement as something to do throughout our entire lifespan, and not just for pleasure but also for possible health benefits.”