The Secret to Lifelong Learning
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Running has always inspired me. One of its greatest rewards is the ability to test your own limits, and what you learn about yourself by doing so.

Becoming a better runner takes persistence and curiosity. The strains on your body often seem to plead, “Give up.” But like any endeavor in which you become successful, the questions you learn to replace these with are, “How much further can I go? What more can I do?”

Education is the same. Often seen as a single stage of life — confined to the classroom or a degree course — it’s easy to treat it as a one-way investment, rather than a two-way street that involves giving back, too.

People can also give themselves the pass that they are “too busy” to continue learning. But getting stuck in this mindset means the very things that can spur growth in our lives never get past the to-do list.

Lifelong learning goes beyond any single space, and is instead about seizing opportunities to uplift our careers and be greater assets to those who need us.

I pursued my APR, for example, to be able to apply the specialist knowledge it imparts to helping my clients. My role as professional development chair of PRSA’s Memphis Chapter and an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis are particularly special to me, for the opportunities they provide in helping nurture the skills and ambitions of others.

Everyone has their own spark, which helps us learn and then exchange our knowledge with the world. If you want to put daily learning at the heart of your professional development, then it isn’t just about adding another book or podcast to your list. Instead, these three tips can help.

Learn to say “yes.”
Received wisdom tells us that being selective with the opportunities that come our way is essential for managing time and avoiding being overstretched. But too often, this has led to an overemphasis on the word “no,” including inside our minds.

Think about everything you encounter, and things that will help you, or help you help others in your network. This might be an industry conference, professional development classes, opportunities for great conversation over a meal — even a book someone tells you to read.

Having a full calendar can be overwhelming — believe me, I know. But another way to incorporate more yeses into your life is to occasionally challenge yourself as to why you’re saying “no.” Is it a lack of time, or rather a fear of leaving your comfort zone?

See the inspiration in everything and anyone.
I’ve lost count of the number of times a communications plan, advice for a colleague or even an article used for a social media post was sparked by something unfamiliar (and incredibly interesting) out there in the world.

We can also learn a great deal from unexpected people and situations. This includes moments where we have to put our egos to one side to absorb valuable knowledge from competitors, or people we may not get along with.

Pay your knowledge forward.
Learning comes full circle. In my case, it’s the mentorship opportunities through teaching or with Girls on the Run Memphis that connect me with different generations and/or those with different backgrounds. Imparting knowledge on others makes you stronger – not least because they can point out your blind spots.

As renowned journalist Sydney Harris once said, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”

The less we continually learn, the more we shrink in proportion to the world. Continually expanding our horizons makes us more effective professionals, mentors and partners to clients and others within our network.

This article originally appeared in PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics.