While lifelong learning and self-directed learning are not equivalent, they overlap substantially. I think the following points apply equally to both. The successful lifelong learner is someone who:
1. Takes initiative
This first one is core to the entire concept of “self-directed.” The successful self-directed learner does not wait for someone else to say “you must learn this.”
2. Is comfortable with independence
Self-directed learners do not always act autonomously or independently. Indeed, increasingly they must cultivate their networks to learn effectively. Nonetheless, successful self-directed learners know how to be self-reliant.
3. Is persistent
Learning takes time, it takes repetition, it takes practice. Successful self-directed learners stick to it.
4. Accepts responsibility
The successful self-directed learner embraces responsibility for doing the work of learning and doing it well
5. Views problems as challenges, not obstacles
The successful self-directed learner embraces a growth mindset and is not easily thwarted when the going gets tough.
6. Is capable of self-discipline
Even when learning is enjoyable (which, for the successful self-directed learner, it usually is), it often requires discipline. The self-directed learner knows (or learns!) how to develop and maintain discipline.
7. Has a high degree of curiosity
Successful self-directed learners have a high propensity for asking why – and lots of other questions.
8. Has a strong desire to learn or change
The successful self-directed learner is intrinsically motivated. She has a will to learn and sees learning as a positive path forward.
9. Is self-confident
Successful self-directed learners have a solid sense of “self-efficacy” – the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals
10. Is able to use basic study skills
As I have said here before, skills like taking notes effectively are useful for a lifetime. The self-directed learner knows this.
11. Organizes his or her time
While self-directed learning does not require the obsession with productivity that seems to be everywhere on the Interweb, the successful self-directed learner nonetheless knows how to find and manage time effectively to allow for learning.
12. Sets an appropriate pace for learning
The successful self-directed learner recognizes that learning is as much (if not more) about the process than the outcome and doesn’t try to do too much too fast.
13. Develops a plan for completing work
Setting a plan is part of setting the pace and ultimately reaching the destination. The successful self-directed learner recognizes this.
14. Has a tendency to be goal-oriented
While not all self-directed learners consciously set goals, they nonetheless tend to have an end in mind when they start down the learning path.
15. Enjoys learning
The proverbial bottom line: the successful self-directed learner simply likes to learn.
How well do these points describe you as a learner?
How effectively are you cultivating these ways in those you teach (your children, you members, you employees, your students – you name it.)