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01/17/2014 07:23 am ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014

5 Tips From School To Help You Keep Progressing As An Adult

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SPECIAL FROM Next Avenue

By Ben Skinner

Many of the things we learned in college get cast aside for job-related knowledge and our spare time these days usually results in collapsing in front of the television after a long day’s work. Fair enough, if that’s what you want to do.

But there are more constructive ideas to keep your brain working so you’ll keep progressing at the level you did at school and maintain the enthusiasm and energy you had in those carefree days. Here are five of them:

1. Attend class. Not only are students in their 50s and 60s becoming more common in college classrooms these days, but there are also a range of classes suited specifically for them.

Colleges, art galleries and museums also frequently hold free lectures that can expand your mind. And, as Next Avenue has written, there are growing numbers of free online classes — including MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses).

Learning a language is another great way to educate yourself in midlife. Planning a trip abroad soon? Why not learn a few words in the language of your destination and then try to have a conversation with someone there? It’s likely they will find it estimable and, who knows, you might end up making new friends.

2. Read. Remember the joy of taking yourself on adventures through books when you were a child? Get back in the habit. Reading is a great way to translate words on paper into images in our mind’s eye.

Some ideas you’ll find in literature can be life changing and help you to view the world in a completely different light. Novels let readers build empathy with characters and sometimes change their outlook on life.

Reading has other benefits, too. You’ll improve your ability to concentrate by sitting down with a good book in an isolated environment, blocking out exterior distractions. You’ll also likely learn new words, which will broaden your vocabulary. And sharing books with friends — via paper or electronic downloads — can be a wonderful gift, sparking lively conversations.

3. Join a discussion group. When you were in school, you were expected to share ideas and voice your opinions. And you may have taken some classes that required students to break into small discussion groups. As a grownup, participating in discussions — about, say, a book the group has read or life challenges you’re all facing — can help formulate your ideas and perhaps change certain conceptions.

4. Maintain a journal. During your college days, you may have kept one to ensure you got all your assignments done on time. Now, keep track of your life with a journal or perhaps a diary. Doing so can help you maintain a healthy mind since jotting down events that happened or soon will is great for reflecting and planning. And who doesn’t love ticking things off their “to do list”?

5. Seek knowledge regularly. But now do it electronically, through your computer or mobile device. Follow thought leaders on Twitter, for example. They’ll often link out to fascinating articles that will provide you with new insights and expertise. And join specialized forums and groups online, such as ones on the business networking site, LinkedIn. You’ll grow smarter and — best of all — won’t be graded on what you learn.

Read more from Next Avenue:
8 Ways Not to Lose the New Job You Finally Landed
Why You'll Live Longer if You Take Music Lessons
85-Year-Old Graduates From College, Finds Job

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