To what extent would you say you’re a life-long learner? Now let me follow that question up with this one… Are you more of a proactive or reactive learner?

The evolution of the human mind’s capacity and drive to learn started with the necessity to predict and avoid danger. It is instinctual for us to want to learn. The drive to comprehend is one of the four main drives of human beings along with the drives to acquire, belong, and defend that the meta-study Nohria and Lawrence detail in their book Driven.

In the early years of human-kind we were very much reactive learners, simply responding to the potential dangers of the environment. Over time however, humans developed the capacity to be proactive learners – to assess and create inventive ways to make life easier and better, rather than simply responding to real or potential threats.

When we fast-forward to the corporate cultures of today, management theory has been focusing on the need to keep employees engaged and productive. As we emerged from the industrial age to the information age, one employee engagement strategy that has been well researched and widely applied has been the introduction of learning and development within the workplace.

Traditionally ‘staff training’ was about formal teaching of the skills required to do a job. Over time, this has developed beyond the physical skills to do a job and now encompasses intellectual and emotional tools as well.

It has become an expectation of many employees that their company will invest in their learning and development.

While as a corporate educator this is a strategy I fully support and am grateful for, I also see a problem that we may be encouraging people to become more reactive and passive learners rather than proactive and intentional learners.

Take a look at the table below and ask yourself how many times you fall into the potential of being a more reactive or proactive learner.

The benefits of choosing to be an intentional life-long learner are well evidenced through the research on applied positive psychology and subjective well-being, and yet, my observation is that for many employees working for medium to large corporations, their approach to learning is passively or reactively accepted, and while often welcomed positively, their learning is none-the-less still mandated by management, rather than proactively sought.

One of the major benefits of implementing the Intentionomics Blueprint of 9 inescapable truths for a prosperous life is by its focus on helping you discover what will help you to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life and then through intentional action, guiding you to learn and discover ways to achieve it, you will become an intentional life-long leaner.

In Dr George Vaillant’s enlightening book ‘Aging Well’, he writes “The capacity to take a fresh look at things makes a young person out of an old person.” Vaillant is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and his findings confirm that lifelong learning is “… a characteristic of the best examples of successful aging.”

We have a choice with learning. Do we simply accept what comes our way, or do we intentionally and proactively continually step into our potential through lifelong learning?