Is learning exhausting? Does it feel like a chore? Do you recall the old days when you picked up a project for fun without the term ‘upskilling’ and ‘lifelong learning’ flying around?

There is a difference between lifelong learning and lifelong upskilling. And it’s high time that we separate these two.

Lifelong learning comes from a place of mindfulness, curiosity and kindness towards our whole self.

Lifelong upskilling serves an external purpose of career growth, prosperity and financial freedom. It’s in our benefit to create a faint line of separation and allow time for learning without a professional goal and learning for a professional purpose. 

In this article, we will dig deeper into the art of lifelong learning, science of lifelong upskilling, and how to separate the two with actionable takeaways. 

What is the art of lifelong learning?

Art is messy, fluid and personal. Lifelong learning should cater to our entire selves. When you pick up hobbies or projects that have very little to do with your career and are focused on personal growth, they can be categorized into the ‘lifelong learningbucket. That being said, these skills laterally help our careers and overall development, their purpose is to keep us engaged and thriving as human beings. 

What is the science of lifelong upskilling?

Science is structured, formulated and demands objectivity. Lifelong upskilling should cater to your professional selves. When you sign up for courses, bootcamps, and formal mentoring sessions, these are categorized into the ‘lifelong upskillingbucket. The purpose of these skills is to help grow and navigate the ever-changing professional world. 

Why do we need to separate lifelong learning and lifelong upskilling? 

1. Conserve energy and create space

We have limited energy and space and have to prioritize and balance ‘work’ and ‘life’. We need to ration our energy and create space for learning and upskilling, and build a positive mindset towards both. Separating the two gives us the opportunity to be objective and prioritize with clarity

2. Clarity

The ‘why’ behind learning provides clarity and builds inner drive. For example, a certification is going to help with lateral promotion in 6 months and needs 20 hours of work vs a course on creator economy that will help you build in public. While both are amply important, which one needs to be prioritized as #1? Clarity helps with defining decisions and reduces guilt.

3. Control

Learning can get out of control. Finding the right resources seems like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Separating lifelong learning and upskilling gives us the control required to manage time, resources, and effort with utmost focus. When we gain clarity and spend focused energy, we are in control and in a better place to learn. 

Three reminders for balancing lifelong learning and upskilling: 

a. Create a code

If you are like me, your google calendar is all blue, with some sprucing of other colors. I forget to color code and have no idea about the importance and value of each event. A good practice is to color code calendars and learning schedules to help prioritize and create balance between effort and impact. Find a method that works for you and build the habit of choosing learning projects or topics based on time and effort versus urgency

b. A smidge of unlearning

Our professional lives demand every ounce of energy from us. Find small windows to let go of those expectations and pick something from the lifelong learning bucket. If you have opportunities to opt out of work training and learn an instrument, let go of the fear of missing out

c. Be kind

Lifelong learning and upskilling demand intrinsic motivation. It’s a marathon with kindness, rest and leisure breaks. Learning happens when the learner feels safe and excited about the learning journey.

Kindness is the most important reminder to create a healthy balance and build a holistic learning journey. 

Unlearning Thought

How are you balancing lifelong learning and upskilling today? Is it a healthy balance or does it need a change?