Life-long learning is a journey worth traveling, given the wide-ranging health benefits and purpose-driven outcomes. This article will explore three benefits and one cautionary tale of continued learning through personal examples of acquiring psychotherapy and coaching skills.
Life-Long Learners Stay Connected And Have Purpose
On February 27, 2021, I turned forty-five years old. While on the surface, my birthday may not sound like a big event, while, symbolically, it was. Leading up to my special day, I finally found peace, knowing I will never physically bear a child and raise a newborn into adulthood. For many women, the ability to become a mother is a rite of passage and fulfills female biology’s role. Why am I sharing this information with you?
Parenthood was a dream I held close. Yet, when the reality didn’t come to fruition, the absence left a profound, sorrowful impact on me. And for a few years, I grieved its loss. During this time, I also continued to focus on deep inner work and experimented with different psychotherapy modalities to help ease the pain and finally come to a place of acceptance.
During the process, a beautiful question emerged — I am halfway through my life; what do I want to do with ample time on my hands? The answer appeared with clarity of purpose; to continue on my path of life-long learning.
Today I am grateful I didn’t have a family. Had I raised a child, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the Gestalt Psychotherapy Institute of Toronto and find a profession I am passionate about. Nor would I be able to take the Co-Active Coach Certification program this year. A child would have taken all my time, energy, and finances.
And now that I have accepted that I am not here to have a biological family, I must find community and connection in other places. Otherwise, the middle and elderly years will become quite lonely. Life-long learning will help fill the void by opening up brand new networks of like-minded people. I’m already witnessing beautiful synergies and relationships created with people from all over the world.
For example, in 2019, I enrolled in the first-ever ICAgile Enterprise Agile Coach cohort. In parallel to widening my practice and gaining new skills on an unprecedented level, I also met fourteen of the most beautiful souls with similar purposes scattered across our planet. Despite completing our program, I remain in contact with many participants and continue to share, discuss, and partner on various initiatives.
One incredible benefit of being a psychotherapist and coach practitioner is the never-ending fountain of knowledge garnered from witnessing and participating in human behavior. The professions offer a constant exploration of self, other, and the environment.
The second benefit of psychotherapy and coaching is the ability to remain in private practice well into my golden years — provided I keep my faculties. I will continue to have a purpose for the betterment of self and society. I am grateful to find my place in the universe and know my ongoing objective is to serve others in their learning development and progression.
Life-Long Learners Keep The Brain Healthy
While we stay on the theme of aging, what better way to keep the mind sharp than continually learning new skills and igniting new pathways in the brain? The beauty of psychotherapy and coaching is the never-ending approaches, modalities, and practice methods. One will need five lifetimes to become well versed in emerging practices.
For example, the use of psilocybin and MDMA in a clinical, controlled psychotherapeutic environment for trauma and PTSD is an area I am fascinated with and will further explore. In particular, I want to learn if the use of these substances can offer freedom from narcotic pain killer dependency and the ability for clients to “go deeper” into current closed-off personal traumas.
The point is, in psychotherapy and coaching, there is a vast field of exciting theories and practices to experiment with and discover from. And all of the new information garnered has a direct positive impact on the learner’s brain; psychologytoday.com further describes the process:
Learning programs the brain. It is nature’s way to create simultaneously both “hardware” and “software” for the brain. Neuroscientists have long known that learning experiences change the functional circuitry that is used to process and remember a given learning event.
My pursuit for continued education is an internal desire to acquire new skills coupled with a need to ward off dementia and other mind deliberating conditions common in the golden years. Today I exercise my body with weight training to ensure I retain my physical strength; why not ensure continued mental stimulation to promote sharpness of mind in old age?
Life-Long Learning Helps Career Progression
While there is no guarantee life long learning will catapult a career, I believe a lot rests on the creativity and hustle of an individual to translate the passion into tangible progression. For example, I love writing, and as a child, I wanted to be a journalist. While my career took a different route, I am now integrating my joy of storytelling with psychotherapy and coaching; and even starting to make a residual income from my effort.
Each December, I create a list of specific learning goals for the upcoming year. Keep in mind; the list is not about crafting resolutions; instead, the process allows me to stay focused on what I want and remove distractions. And given Canadians continue to remain in Covid lockdown, my list for 2021 is quite ambitious:
- Every Day — Write one article on the Medium platform.
- Winter — KMP II Kanban Professional Designation.
- Spring — Complete Year 3 Gestalt Psychotherapy Institute.
- Summer — Certified Digital Marketing Professional, Digital Marketing Institute.
- Late Summer/Fall — Enneagram Certification.
- Fall — Co-Active Coaching Certification.
- Fall — Begin Year 4 Gestalt Psychotherapy Institute.
If you feel exhausted reading my list, my goodness, I’m tired too and need some sleep. One challenge with lifelong education, especially if you’re an over-learner like me — personal value cannot be derived from achievement.
Over the last three years, I’ve become much more aware of healthy versus unhealthy boundaries while continuing on the journey to find peace within myself, rather than seeking value in a never-ending tunnel of laurels and merit. When achievement through education becomes too figural in my life, my body feels weary, and I become exhausted. Today I am much better at listening to the physical cues and experiencing the signs my body expresses. When sleep calls, I rest and recharge.
Given the choices I have made in my life, continued learning is necessary to ensure a community of like-minded people will surround me well into my golden years. I am fortunate to study and be involved in the psychotherapy and coaching community, integrated professions that will allow me to practice, serve others, and have a purpose in old age. I will not be alone. Continued learning keeps the mind sharp and forms new neural pathways reducing the chances of contracting common ailments such as dementia. Finally, life-long learning grants the opportunity to add more tools in the therapeutic and coaching toolbox, allowing me to draw from a wide variety of experiences to enrich the client experience. While I continue to advance in my career, I must be mindful not to overextend myself. Ultimately we are enough just the way we are with or without the drive for life-long learning.