Learning for Wellbeing

alan white

Alan White

Wellness Consultant

The concept of lifelong learning is something that many of us have heard of but few have embraced. For a lot of people, the completion of formal education was a transition from a life phase of learning to one of career and work.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Although employees engage with Continuous Professional Development, many see it as an obligation rather than an opportunity to enhance skills and knowledge and grow, both professionally and personally.

When it comes to our overall sense of wellbeing. Learning is one of the biggest factors in helping us to maintain a positive mind-set. The key difference between formal education and chosen learning when we are older, is that when we choose to engage with a course or mentoring programme, we have a sense of control and purpose when we decide to gain new knowledge and skills.

One of the biggest barriers to potential in formal education is that many young people feel they lack the choice to pursue areas that interest them and that they are obligated rather than motivated to attend school or university in order to attain a good career and therefore standard of living. When we decide to continue learning as adults we often have the choice to pursue areas that we are interested in which gives us a sense of focus, purpose and motivation. When we are working towards a goal like this we are at our best and our sense of wellbeing improves.

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Two of the key components of our wellbeing are meaning and accomplishment. Meaning relates to a sense of purpose that comes from a sense of belonging and productivity. When an employee feels like they belong in an organisation, they will be engaged in their work and are also motivated to pursue learning opportunities that will enhance their skills and productivity to carry out their work.

Accomplishment is the sense of pursuing new skills and learning opportunities for both career progression but also for the intrinsic feeling of value that comes with achieving something such as completing a course of study. When both of these elements are encouraged in people their sense of wellbeing, motivation and efficacy increase resulting in a growth mind-set and increased wellbeing.

When it comes to learning opportunities we often focus on the role that formal education plays, however as well as formal education there are other types of learning that can be equally satisfying and worthwhile when properly facilitated. These include incidental and mentoring. By looking at each one of these types of learning we can quickly see the benefits of each.

Formal Education

This type of education gives us the opportunity to follow a specified course of study with set targets throughout with a purpose or end goal. Although this can be a daunting prospect at first, it can facilitate us to become better than we previously were in an area of our life. It also helps to develop our resilience by overcoming challenges and invites us to reflect on where we are in our personal and professional lives and promote positive self-development.

Incidental Learning

Often overlooked incidental learning is one of the most valuable ways that we can learn new skills and gain experience. Incidental learning is the knowledge and skills we gain from those around us. By observing and questioning colleagues who are more experienced than us or have different skills that might be useful to us we can learn a lot. Organisations that encourage incidental learning not only increase employee motivation but also increase employee wellbeing as both the person learning and the person sharing their knowledge will feel both a sense of belonging and value.


Mentoring is a formalised method of incidental learning. The mentor-mentee relationship within organisations can be the motivating factor that drives retention and progression. It is also one of the most effective ways for people to learn as the mentee is directly involved in the work that the mentor is doing. As Benjamin Franklin said, “tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”.

There are two clear benefits to mentoring when it comes to employee wellbeing, the first is the relationship that can develop between the people involved and the second is the benefits to our wellbeing that learning new skills and knowledge have.

When we are not learning and developing either in our personal or professional lives we tend to stagnate. In order to maintain our wellbeing and our motivation, we need to have a sense of progress in our lives. The concept of lifelong learning in every area of our lives is key to also maintaining our wellbeing and ensuring we remain motivated.


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