Much attention has been paid to the link between students' approaches to study and the quality of their learning. Less attention has been paid to the lifelong learner. We conceptualized a tripartite relationship between three measures of learning preference: conceptions of knowledge (construction and use vs. intake), need for cognition (high vs. low), and approach to study (deep vs. surface) and hypothesized that an individual's profile on these three measures—reconceptualized as a preference for complexity versus simplicity—would affect their attitude toward continuing professional development (CPD). A questionnaire was mailed to 2,000 randomly selected, home-practicing UK veterinarians to quantify their learning preferences, motivation to engage in CPD, and perception of barriers to participation and to assess the relationships between these constructs. Analysis of 775 responses (a 38.8% response rate) confirmed our tripartite model of learning and showed that a preference for complexity was negatively correlated with barriers and positively correlated with intrinsic, social, and extrinsic motivating factors, suggesting that all play a role in the continuing education of this group of professionals. A preference for simplicity was negatively correlated with social motivation and positively correlated with barriers. This study demonstrates that approach not only affects the quality of learning but crucially affects motivation to engage in CPD and perception of barriers to lifelong learning. This should emphasize to veterinary educators the importance of fostering a preference for complexity from an early age, both in terms of its immediate benefits (better understanding) and longer-term benefits (continued engagement with learning).