In the 21st century, the lifespan of humans has been extended by modern science, so that we can now expect to live to between eighty and ninety years of age, barring any unforeseen incidents. This means that our development, in both personal and professional spheres can be much longer than the development of previous generations. Additionally, the 21st-century scarcity of job stability, tenured positions and jobs that offer reliable pensions means that the millennial generation and subsequent cohorts will need to re-invent themselves over and over again, adapting to shifts in the job market and economic fluctuations.
Most jobs in the west no longer rely on physical force: agricultural and straight ahead labor jobs make up a tiny sliver of the job market these days. This means that humans will need to start embracing a growth mindset far beyond their formal education and first serious job. While neuroscientists of yore suggested that humans are incapable of learning past a certain age, recent research and studies have shown that this is incorrect – an old brain can most certainly learn new tricks.
The fallacy that the brains of adults can no longer adapt and pick up new skill sets is extremely dangerous, and could lead a gullible individual into a trap of lethargy: if you’re told development is impossible, why bother trying? The growth mindset is something that we often preach to children – the idea that we all have the ability to excel in any vocation, whether or not we initially have a knack for it. For ourselves, however, we often get overly comfortable in our specialized professions, so that we do in fact stop learning and growing past a certain age. This is not, however, our brains’ fault, it’s a failure of discipline and imagination.
There are several activities you can engage in to galvanize your mind into action and create neural pathways. Learning a new language is great, and with free online resources such as Duo Lingo and language groups on sites like Meetups, pursuing a foreign language won’t cost you a dime! Learning an instrument is another great way to wake up dormant parts of your mind, if you have an old dusty guitar laying around, pick it up and give it a strum! If you are starting from scratch, you may want to hire a professional teacher; the many benefits of music lessons include having someone to motivate you and address any specific questions and issues you may have.
Once you embrace a growth mindset into maturity, you can start taking full advantage of life in the digital age: YouTube tutorials are a good, if sometimes unreliable resource. The website Lynda.com – from the folks at LinkedIn – offers over 6,000 online tutorials in business, technology and creative skills and can be accessed for free through most Public Library systems. If you have access to an Internet connection, you can teach yourself a plethora of useful and exciting skills well into your old age. This can be a bit overwhelming, and from year to year you may want to keep your focus trained on one or two specialties so as not to overload your brain.
So, don’t be complacent; throw out your excuses and embrace a growth mindset. Learn a new language, how to shred the cello or how to write computer code!