My mother has been telling me she’s too old to change since she was 45; she’s now 85. In a way, she had the privilege of that position because she hasn’t had to support herself. Those of us out there making a living know how much the world is changing and how we must change to keep up, no matter what our age. I just read somewhere that the average American will have nine jobs by the time they’re 32. How many therefore by the time they’re 62?

In his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, management consultant Peter F. Drucker claims that we’re moving into an entrepreneurial society in which people must continue to learn new things their entire lifetimes and must “take responsibility for their learning, their own self-development, and their own careers.”

What kinds of skills and education will you and I need? Since we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow, how can we possible prepare for two decades from now? Or four? We can’t. That’s why we must all become lifelong learners, which will give us greater capacity to cope with whatever comes our way. According to Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, here are the key attitudes:

Belief that you can learn
Trust that your efforts to learn will pay off
Willingness to persist
Seeing mistakes and feedback as learning opportunities
Finding inspiration from the success of others
I find some of these easier than others. I’ve got no trouble with the first three or the last one. I’m still working on seeing mistakes as learning opportunities. There continues to be a voice of perfectionism inside me that panics when I find I’ve made an error, although it’s much softer than it used to be. And I still have trouble seeking out feedback because I’m afraid it will be negative. But I’m working on it! I’ve gotten much better at feeling the discomfort and asking for input anyway.

Looking at the list, how are you doing on becoming a lifelong learner? Which of these are easy? Difficult? Try to notice without beating yourself up. That just interferes with a learning attitude because it reinforces the belief that you should know everything already.

The capacity to learn is truly our greatest asset in the unknown because no matter what the future holds in store for us, we’re holding the key to successful adaptation. We can’t know all of what we need to know because we don’t know what that is yet. But we can trust that we’ll be able to learn it when we need to.

Author's Bio: 

A member of Professional Thinking Partners who is recognized as a leading expert in change, M.J. Ryan specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, individuals, and leadership teams around the world to maximize performance and fulfillment. Her clients include Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Hewitt Associates, and Frito Lay. Her work is based on a combination of positive psychology, strengths-based coaching, the wisdom traditions, and cutting edge brain research. Her new book, titled “AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For” was recently released published by Random House’s Broadway Books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.