There are a lot of things we can do with our time. Even if you do not want to spend your free time watching television or playing video games, we all have a lot of options when it comes down to it. I’m here to argue that you should at least spend a small part of it taking online courses. And here’s why.
1. Keeping Your Mind Active Helps You Live Longer
Scientists say that keeping your body and mind active actually contributes to a better quality of life as we get older. So you can retire from your job at 65, and spend your days watching TV and not doing much else, but your mind is actually going to deteriorate faster. Those 80 year olds that you see who are smiling, laughing, playing golf, and dancing until the lights come on at parties are not the ones watching TV all day.
2. Demonstrated Self-Improvement Can Help You Land Jobs or Do Better At the One You Have
It turns out that the best employees are the ones who are eager to learn new things. The ones who relish the opportunity to learn a new skill and spend their own time and money learning things that can make them better at their jobs. Compared to a person who does not want to think about work past 5 PM, actively resists change at work, and prefers to hide in the corner doing the same thing they did this year that they did last year. If you can demonstrate that you love learning new things, and are self-motivated to learn, you have a leg up on someone of equal talent as you who does not demonstrate that.
3. You Can Gain an Important Skill
In video games, like World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons, it’s self-evident that if you become better at something (like, swordfighting), you can actually progress farther in the game. That’s a key part of the game. You cannot remain a Level 1 Fighter and survive and excel at the game – you have to gain skills and experience to get to the top.
Well, newsflash. Life is a game. Building key skills, like time management, or understanding finance, will actually help you at life. Understanding how portfolio risk is actually reduced substantially (to a limit) will help you earn more from your investments which will help you buy a bigger house or live better in retirement. All this from online courses. Ignorance does not help you in life. The more you know, the better.
4. You Can Build Your Network
Many courses develop online communities around them – in the forums during the 4-, 6-, or 8-week duration of the course. Active participation in the forums can lead to finding people who share common interests as you. And if you end up adding these new friends to your LinkedIn profile, or organize in-person meetings to discuss the material, having more people in your extended network can only help you get further ahead in your academic and professional pursuits.
5. You Can Change Your Life!
Perhaps that is a bit dramatic. But it’s true. If you are presently in a life that you do not particularly like, what can you do to change it? You can’t easily change your spouse, and for many changing jobs is a difficult proposition as well. Instead of trying to change the world around you, start with changing yourself.
From the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, the first habit is Be Proactive. This quote summarizes what that means:
Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.
There are things that affect you that you cannot change, and things that you can change. Focus on the things you can change. One of the things you can change is yourself. Become better at everything. Get in shape. Read books. Take online courses. Learn new skills. Improve your relationships with other people. Stop drinking and smoking. Stop blaming other people, and stop blaming the government. If you start with your attitude and improving yourself every day, in days, weeks, months you will see changes around you. You will find it easier to improve your situation. And your life will change.