I think it is important to be a lifelong learner.
Why? If for no other reason, one can soon become stale. I have found that I need to be intentional about exercising my mind. My mind needs to be stretched. Yesterday, I was at a satellite location (Baylor University) of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. One of the speakers was Marcus Buckingham, whose books I had seen but not read. Most of his message dealt with the importance of maximizing one’s strengths at work (instead of focusing on weaknesses). At one point he said,
"Learn more about what already interests you."
Now I like that! Stretching my mind is not just learning about things that might be new to me but learning more about what already interests me. So now, a few suggestions:
1. Read widely. Don’t just read people whom you already agree with. Don’t just read people who are popular and valued among your peers. Read widely. Read people with whom you don’t necessarily agree. I have found this particularly helpful. Far too often, some of us become too predictable in what we think because we read so narrowly.
2. Learn from anyone. I know some ministers who read nothing but theology. Hmmm. I have been blessed by reading articles in Fast Company, Outside, and by skimming newspapers from all over the country (these are readily available online). My friend, Chris Bullard, in Kansas City, Missouri, modeled this for me when we lived there a number of years ago. He not only read widely but was eager to learn from anyone.
3. Engage your whole body. We become lifelong learners not just by reading but by using other parts of our bodies. Maybe you decide to try new food that you have never tasted (Chinese, Thai, Indian) or perhaps you choose to listen to music that you’ve never heard before (rock, country, classical, jazz). Perhaps you watch a television program you would not ordinarily watch. Maybe you take a walk and pay attention to birds you see or flowers or plants in someone’s yard.
You might be surprised as to what exercising your body can do for you (not to mention the importance of being a good steward of a body created by God). Maybe you start taking a brisk walk every morning. Or, perhaps you begin working out at the gym every day. Don’t worry about trying to do as much as someone else. Do what is right for you and for your body. Far too many of us have bodies that are not being cared for.
4. Listen. Who can you learn from right now? Ask people questions. Ask people questions about things that interest you. Do you know someone who seems very fresh and alive? Ask her what she is doing to stay on this track.
5. Learn about what interests you. I like this line from Marcus Buckingham. Learn about what interests you. Do you like to grill? Learn more about grilling. Do you like a particular sport or a particular kind of music? Learn more. Are you fascinated by a particular country? Learn more about that country.
6. Pray for a hunger to learn more from God. Some of us get very comfortable with God and do not get intentional about knowing him. Am I reading Scripture (not just my favorite texts but the whole of Scripture)? Do I desire to understand more fully the richness of God’s character? Do I read materials that help me understand the Christian story and the meaning of what God has done in Christ?
What else would you add to this list of six?
I would enjoy hearing from you about what you are learning. What are you learning right now? What has been particularly helpful to you in an effort to remain fully alive?