There are times in life where we can feel stuck or aimless, unsure of what to do with our lives. Like any feeling we may experience, this feeling is not bad in itself, though it can serve to wake us up to the fact that some sort of change is needed. That change may be Continuing Education.
According to Austrian neurologist Viktor Frankl, addiction is a response to living a life that has little personal meaning. The Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a non-12-step mental health and addiction treatment centre with an approach that centers around meaning and purpose and draws deeply from Frankl’s philosophy of addiction. So, what can we do in our lives to move towards finding meaning in order to counter addiction and promote wellbeing? Luckily, there are lots of options, some of which are explored in SCHC’s blog.
In previous articles, we’ve talked about the way volunteering can move us forward in our search for meaning, and we’ve also explored the benefits of choosing to work in a job that is meaningful. A third powerful option that can move us towards meaning in our lives is to pursue further schooling and education, including Continuing Education.
The Benefits of Continuing Education
Continuing Education (CE), in the broad sense, is any number of non-degree programs with a focus on formal learning. In contrast to Post-Secondary Education, CE takes the form of non-degree training for the workforce, one’s career, one’s own interests or for personal enrichment. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more courses than ever have been made available from the comfort of your own home. But what are the benefits of Continuing Education?
1. Stimulates the Brain
For a long time, we’ve been living with a pervasive myth that the brain stops growing once we mature into adults. However, recent research shows that education can continue to rewire the brain. According to Dr. John N. Morris, director of social and health policy research at the Institute for Aging Research, “embracing a new activity that also forces you to think and learn… can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy.”
What’s more, learning something new requires us to go outside of our comfort zone, which can be beneficial for personal development.
2. Provides Structure
There are times in our lives that are more structured, and times that are more open. Neither of these ways of existing is inherently good or bad. However, it’s important to realize that what we might need sometimes is a change from what we’re used to.
When we feel lost or listless, one of the things we may be missing is a bit of structure. For folks who are unemployed, under-employed or self-employed, it can be hard to find a structure. CE can provide some structure in your life by requiring that you show up to courses, or participate in projects and assessments.
Not all Continuing Education is structured in this way, however. Folks who are looking for a less-structured approach to learning can consider self-paced and asynchronous courses, ultimately making CE a very versatile option.
3. Provides a Social Environment
For decades, we’ve known that loneliness is deeply tied to mental health. As humans, we tend to fare better in social groups than we do on our own. As we get older and set in our careers or routines, it can become harder to meet people and make friends. Continuing Education can provide a group context in which to meet and engage with people, potentially leading to all sorts of fulfilling and rewarding relationships.
The mere act of enrolling in a class immediately creates common ground with those who do the same. Group assignments, discussion forums, study meet-ups and student socials are all ways to engage with a potential new friend. This can ultimately lead to meaningful relationships that are centred around a shared purpose but can span far beyond the CE course.
3. New Roles
We’ve previously talked about how helpful it can be to assess the different roles you have in your life. Assessing different roles can be a great way to find meaning in who you are and what you’re doing. Being a student is a role that can be enjoyable and rewarding. Furthermore, doing well in this role requires a lot of discipline. It forces you to exercise your brain, organize your time, and basically hustle in all of the nerdiest ways possible.
Moreover, taking on the role of a student can be a fantastic way to insert purpose into our lives. Even if it’s on a short-term basis, it provides us with very clear, temporary goals. CE also provides many opportunities to find meaning by nature of its participatory nature. As we invest time and money into our learning experience, we are given the opportunity to take ownership. As well as to reflect upon how our learning ties into other aspects of our lives.
4. Useful Skills and Knowledge
This goes without saying, as the whole idea with education is to gain skills and knowledge. However, the finer point here is that when we embark on an educational opportunity, we never know the entirety of what we’re going to learn. That’s a real gift.
Additionally, there is always something to learn, whether it’s a familiar or unfamiliar topic to you. What’s more, you never know how these newfound skills and domains of knowledge are going to serve you in the future. An interest could even create a new avenue to find meaning and purpose in the future.
5. Advances Your Career
Continuing Education can provide a targeted way to grow a particular skill set or knowledge base. What’s more, many CE courses can provide credentials that will make you eligible for more jobs and opportunities.
Even if you love your job, Continuing Education can help you to gain new skills and areas of knowledge. Thus, helping you do your job more effectively and impactfully, as well as innovate more in your role. All of this can help to bring more meaning and purpose into your life. Not to mention a more fulfilling role within your workplace.
Continuing education offers many ways in which you can improve different aspects of your life. Education opens opportunities to meet new people, find meaning, and build your skillset. Moreover, it can help to deepen our sense of meaning and purpose, as explored in this article. With more options than ever for where and how to take courses, there’s never been a better time to learn.
Ionatan Waisgluss is a writer, educator and web developer living in the qathet region of British Columbia. He is the founder of SquareByte.ca