“Why Lifelong Learning Matters: Balancing Career Growth and Personal Fulfillment”

"Lifelong learning" is increasingly being promoted in the Netherlands. This concept stems from the rapid pace of global developments that are constantly rendering old jobs obsolete and creating new ones requiring new knowledge and techniques. Thus, continuous learning is the future. But who determines when, how, and what you will learn, and who covers the costs?

Are there subsidies?

Since I know I am now writing for a broad international audience (thank you all), I will briefly explain how it works in the Netherlands. In simple terms, like in many other countries, there are subsidies available for employers and employees to pursue education and training. This means that the costs do not always fall on the shoulders of employers and employees alone. Often, there are arrangements for employees as well. If the education or training is entirely relevant to the employee's work for the employer, the employer often covers these costs, which can then be deducted from their taxes.

Are the costs fairly distributed?

If the education is something from which the employee might personally benefit, they may have to cover part of the cost. Typically, if the employer contributes to these activities, the employee must sign a statement obligating them to stay with the employer for a longer period. Employers can refuse to cover costs if the benefits of the training or education are solely for the employee. Many employers adhere to this method, thus helping their employees advance in their careers. Of course, there are many exceptions, and many of you may not recognize these situations in your own countries. All these arrangements are designed to ensure that the employee grows, which in turn helps the employer's business grow, generally leading to more profit for the owner.

What does the average employee do with all these growth aspirations?

Often, employees are happy to be able to follow training and education, as it usually means continuity in their work and income. However, some employees find this "driving force" challenging. They prefer to continue their work in the "normal" way and will look for another job if necessary. They are not chasing more knowledge, power, and salary. They prioritize their home, family, and personal life. These exceptions are often the ones who ask their overly ambitious colleagues, "Do we live to work, or do we work to enjoy this beautiful world?"

Why do we live?

A beautiful philosophical question, but can you answer it for yourself directly? Do you live in a wonderful and loving family, or do you prefer to be at work? Do you work so hard to earn enough money to spend a few weeks each year in a beautiful exotic vacation paradise? Does this mean you only know those exotic places and barely your own surroundings? Are you one of those people who dares to say after retirement that they did everything right? The family is financially well off, the mortgage on an oversized house is almost paid off, your often dissatisfied children’s education is completed and paid for by you, and there's even a nice inheritance waiting for them because you think it's important, and they are looking forward to it.

Do you really go all out?

People who have retired often say, "So, it's done, now we can enjoy." Do you recognize these words from someone who is sixty-seven years old (the retirement age in the Netherlands)? Enjoying with stiff limbs, sleep apnea, poor vision and hearing. Really enjoying, having nothing more to do? Suppose you reach the fantastic age of eighty or older, then you have thirteen years, which is 5.15384 percent of your entire life, left to "enjoy your life." That 5.15384 percent is a lot compared to people in other parts of the world for whom retirement is a concept they will never reach or have. Know that I hold these people in high regard. But also think about those who respond to your comments by saying, "If you wanted to stop working earlier, you should have stopped earlier, started your own business, taken more risks."

Why didn’t you take risks?

After a lifetime of learning and raising several children, and all the tensions that came with it, you can finally enjoy your retirement. You did your best for all those people who were wiser, lazier, and more enterprising than you. As a civil servant or otherwise, the entrepreneurs you worked for throughout your life may have enjoyed and seen more of their surroundings, but you can be proud because you did everything to contribute to the world’s continuous learning and development. Proudly you sit in your senior chair by the geraniums, looking outside. Your children love you for their financial independence. You can barely see, hear, or walk. Your "old" employers were happy with you, and you discovered last month that the nature around your house is beautiful and something you have never seen before. Who is right, the worker or the enjoyer, you keep wondering.