I’ve spent most of my life acquiring new skills and improving them.
I remember watching my mom draw when I was eight and begging her to teach me how to do it.
As a pre-teen, I spent hours drawing. I went to the local library and checked out Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and taught myself more. I’ve also enjoyed learning about painting, music, fitness, cooking, business, sewing, and all kinds of other things in my free time.
Sometimes my love of skills makes me feel like a stranger in a world that’s focused on consumption. I care more about making things than passively entertaining myself. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy fictional books and movies–I enjoy them a lot. But I don’t keep up with what’s trending. I’d rather learn how to paint with watercolors than see what’s new on Netflix. I find it difficult to explain to others what I do with my time.
But I don’t care because being a life-long learner is fantastic and empowering. Here are the biggest benefits I’ve seen from my shameless pursuit of useful knowledge:
[Note: This post contains affiliate links from bookshop.org in support of indie bookstores. I earn a commission from these links, but this does not affect what you pay, and I only link to books that I’ve enjoyed.]
Better Money Management
Last month my husband reviewed our bank account with a surprised look on his face. We were saving more money than ever.
“It’s like the more educated you are the more money we have,” he said.
Over the past 6 months, I learned things that helped both of us to make more effective use of our funds. Those decisions continue to pay off greatly, even after I was laid off from my job in July. (For a more in-depth look at my favorite money-saving resources, check out my post Money Saving Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs.)
Many of the reasons why we save so much are tied to my next point.
Better Use of Time
I spend less time shopping, doing my makeup, and being overly focused on how I appear to others. Instead, I use my time to read, write, and create a lifestyle that allows me to do the maximum with very little.
After learning about capsule wardrobes, classic fashion, and effective thrift shopping, I don’t need a clothing budget. I rarely feel the need to buy clothes. This is so different from my early 20s. Back then, my closet looked like the mall! Now my closet looks like me, and I get dressed way faster.
I’ve also reduced my make-up routine from 6 products to 3, which makes a huge difference.
Learning is an inexpensive hobby overall. It’s easy enough to get free instruction from the library, YouTube, and Creative Live. On top of that, it’s a hobby that pays back.
My self-education has helped me to:
- Embrace cooking. When I first got married, we would eat frozen meals twice a week. Now I don’t know the last time we’ve had a frozen meal. And this saves money.
- Realize that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. Knowing that I’m an HSP has had a huge impact on my overall health. For one thing, I’m much more gentle and patient with my body and mind. I still push myself, but I’ve learned to do so with care.
- Effectively manage my anxiety with better sleeping and exercise habits. I’ve also learned to think through my fears and worries and understand them. As a result, although I often feel anxious, it is not paralyzing. Understanding my anxiety and what it means has been huge for me because years ago I used to start each day with overwhelming panic. Now I start my days with calm and purpose.
- Swap chemical-filled makeup with affordable clean makeup. Same goes for other household and personal care items. Curious about the safety of your household items? Check out EWG Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database.
- Stop relaxing my hair and enjoy its natural curly texture. Relaxers not only have harmful chemicals, but they also hurt the health of your hair. Plus, this move saves money if you don’t go crazy with the hair products.
- Improve my feminine health. I’ve replaced archaic tampons with a menstrual cup which not only protects me from harmful chemicals, but also saves money and the environment. I’ve learned how to replace birth control pills with highly effective natural birth control (This option isn’t for everyone, but I love the Symptothermal Fertility Awareness Method). Learning how to track my cycles has also helped me to have a deeper understanding of my body’s needs in general.
- End debilitating cycle pain by changing my diet. I am currently gluten-free, dairy-free, and low sugar.
I don’t usually write much about women’s health, but it just blows my mind how many little daily things for women are tied to health problems. Women, take the time to educate yourselves about your body post high school. Moms, please educate your daughters about general feminine health and nutritional needs. My favorite books on women’s health are The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, ND. and Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MHP.
More Flexibility & Resilience
I’m not worried about lacking job skills because anything I need to learn, I can learn quickly. Also, it is absolutely amazing what you can make with your own two hands. Food, music, books, technology, home decor, clothes, cleaning products…Even if you’re not that great at something, it’s easy to find information on how to be good enough.
I don’t feel the need to put in the 10,000 hours to achieve absolute mastery. I’m not looking to be the best in the world, but good enough. Being able to do the basics is usually enough to make amazing things happen. I also have the mindset that there is more than one way to accomplish something. This transforms obstacles into challenges.
Learning a lot of skills means that I experience a lot of failures. It’s unavoidable. In my drive to push my limits, I’m always reminded of them. Also, I’m always facing the reality that I don’t know it all and never will. My long wish-list of books reminds me that there is always more to learn, and there are always people out there who are better than me at stuff. And that’s okay.
People who are better than me are just more juicy resources to suck knowledge from. And that last sentence makes me sound kinda scary, lol.
I think it’s strange how some people shut down their brains once they leave school. Many adults are like, “Woo-hoo! Now that I’m out of school, I don’t need to learn nothing!!” Then all they do is put out what they know, no matter how outdated that may be, and refuse to take in anything new.
This is sad because it leaves many people unprepared for a modern world that’s in a constant state of change and discovery. It’s okay and even desirable not to know it all.
Share the Knowledge
This blog post is like my own mini-celebration of self-education and learning for life. But writing this has also reminded me of the importance of taking the time to teach others to be learners for life.
Teach others to be life-long learners by
- Championing reading
- Encouraging curiosity and research
- Encouraging taking small risks and trying
- Showing that learning can happen (and should happen) outside of the classroom
- Share your learning journey with others
The skills learned in your free time can be used to improve your quality of life and your job resume. Plus, it’s just fun. It’s fun making things happen.
For more about the challenges of being a self-learner, check out my latest book, I Want To Do All the Things: Finding Balance as a Polymath, Multipotentialite, and Renaissance Soul.
Are you a life long learner? How has self-education helped you?