Live and Let Learn

WE go to school to get an education, sure…..but that’s just the beginning. It barely scratches the surface.

We don’t stop growing physically the second we leave school and neither does our mind.

So often we see an education or learning as something we stop doing past a certain age, but that drive to understand never really leaves us. In fact it only grows.

Those burning questions about all facets of our life continue. Those thoughts left to ruminate without much guidance, leave us maybe feeling inadequate or unsure of just how much we actually DO know.

I say this because quite frankly that’s me most of the time. There is so much to learn; about the world, the people in it and us?

We build routines and habits around our work, the daily grind, family matters and relationships, and we often indiscriminately leave ‘learning’ off the radar.

It’s easy to just let life ‘happen’ to us and follow familiar patterns, to simply keep the wheels turning, the money coming in and the family happy.

So how can we reconcile the everyday routines with our desire to understand and learn more? How can we be better Lifelong learners and WHY should we?

“During the last fifty years, constant scientific and technological innovation and change has had profound effects on how learning is understood. Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace). Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an ongoing basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. It can take the form of formal learning or informal learning, or self-directed learning”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifelong_learning

 

In a world of sometimes the excessive, the ‘too-much’, the overload, it’s definitely daunting to think about taking on anything more.

But that’s exactly why Lifelong learning is so essential; to find meaning in all the noise and to understand who we are amongst it all.

And it doesn’t have to necessarily mean MORE effort or an ‘add on’ to your already overloaded life.

The Barriers Removed

If there are two very real barriers to our learning, apart from work and family, it’s TIME and EFFORT. I need more time and ‘could I really be bothered?’

So in a somewhat humble effort to grapple with these barriers, I’ve come to a trial and error conclusion…. KISS (Keep it so simple).

I’m not out to change the world (although learning will make you want to do this), I’m working on chunking my time, energy and daily demands into doable bits. A chapter read here, an observation noted there, a conversation had, a journal entry written at the end of day. But it does require action.

So number 1. READ

Read anything and everything.

I have this fantastic friend who consumes books on every topic imaginable, fiction and non-fiction alike and is a busy working mum. The simple fact is she makes it her underlying priority amidst all the demands of family and work life.

My husband ingeniously ‘reads’ audio books in those moments of the evening when he’s pottering about the kitchen, clearing the dishes (I know…it’s brilliant!)or to escape the noise of the kids, with headphones on.

I’ve only in the last 2 years decided to read outside of my comfort zone (predominantly fiction) and am loving non-fiction, on line commentaries, blogs, etc.

And if you still needed to know why reading is sooooooo good for us, I love this quote from acclaimed author and advocate for Reading, Neil Gaiman

“It forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key …..[reading also builds]empathy. Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.You’re also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this: The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different”

Number 2. Make TIME work for you

One of my great frustrations is that I can’t seem to find enough time in the day to cram in more of what I’d like to do…..READ. But I’ve made a few small changes of late that seem to be helping in this department

A) I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid watching the crap on tele (I’m not going to lie….this was surprisingly hard initially and sometimes I fall off the wagon), but it’s freed up so much time to read or reflect or write.

B) Live to see everyday experiences as learning opportunities. Just as we read books for knowledge, the somewhat common everyday conversations and events we witness or are a part of, provide us with nuggets of information and rich learning experiences.

“if we attend properly to our experiences and learn to consider ourselves plausible candidates for an intellectual life, it is….open to all of us to arrive at insights no less profound than those in the great ancient books”. Alain De Botton ‘Consolations of Philosophy’.

C) Finally, it’s OK to daydream. Looking out the window with a cup of tea in hand first thing in the morning has turned into my guilty pleasure. It usually only lasts 5 mins before the kids start shouting demands, but it works to clear my head, focus on my thoughts for that moment and learn to prime myself for the day ahead.

Of course, if you want more there are a plethora of on-line learning platforms such as EdX, Khan Academy, Udemy, Open Culture, (some even free!) which offer courses through reputable universities and colleges.

So get out there….. Live and let yourself learn.

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5 Ingredients for a Life of Satisfaction

Happiness. We all want it, need it, crave it and maybe even see it as our life’s quest.

But what if the pursuit of happiness was a flawed concept? What if instead we aimed for the more reasonable, more attainable pursuit of satisfaction?

How dull I hear you mumble! And you may be right. Satisfaction just doesn’t have the same ‘bells and whistles’ about it that happiness does (although Mick Jagger made the idea of ‘satisfaction’ sound pretty cool).

So let’s imagine then that we buckled up and pursued satisfaction with gusto and verve, instead of the sparkling happiness. What would we need to do or be to help us attain satisfaction in our lives and be happy with that.  

Over the ages, many a great philosopher has pondered over this; what makes a ‘good’ life, starting with Plato in the 4th Century BC.

In fact it’s only been in more recent times, since the Romantic period of the 18th Century, that visions of a greater happiness in life should seem to be one’s life goal.

In his book ‘The Good Life’ Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay expresses concern that western society has this unreasonable belief that “happiness is our birth right… and perfection is a possibility.” Is he on to something?

Likewise the very stoic ancient Roman philosopher Seneca argued that “we will cease to be so angry once we cease to be so hopeful”. Maybe aiming too high is setting ourselves up for failure?

Human Flourishing

A satisfactory place to start is with the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle and his term ‘Eudaimonia’.

This wonderful Greek term is commonly mistranslated as ‘happiness’, when in fact it more accurately means human flourishing. He labelled ‘Eudaimonia’ as the goal of human thought and action.

His brand of human flourishing involved “living in accordance with reason, fulfilling one’s sense of purpose, doing one’s civic duty, living virtuously, being fully engaged with the world and in particular, experiencing the richness of human love and friendship” (Mackay, p.54)

While there is a lot there, thoughout the ages many great thinkers have offered up a range of ingredients for what possibly makes for a ‘good’, satisfying, flourishing life.

Here their reoccurring themes provide us with 5 ingredients for a life of satisfaction.

  1. Relationships

They help shape who we are, bring us comfort and companionship and ultimately a reason for existing. According to contemporary philosopher A.C Graying, fostering good relationships through kindness and consideration, are central to what constitutes the meaning of our life.

Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus too tells us that simple pleasures such as those of conversations with friends, along with freedom and thought, are key to a ‘pleasant’ life.

“Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.” Epicurus

2. Thought and Reason

The ability to not only think, but more importantly to reason is a virtue most of us are still grappling with. Emotions trump rationality far more often than not (yep my hand is up).

But as Allain de Botton tells us, if we get a wrangle hold of those emotions, using practical intelligence and experience, we become empowered creatures. Now that’s satisfying on two fronts.

3. Moral virtue

To have a satisfying life we need to know we can and do ‘good’ or right things. But we’re not perfect all the time.

Here again the Greeks give us comfort. They saw moral failings simply as ‘bad shots’. The solution to missing the target is simply to try again and do better next time.

Hugh Mackay also offers some direction in our search for a morally ‘good life’ by suggesting we should try to relinquish our many notions of ‘I’ and instead think of ‘we’. A life devoted to others for the common good, leads to satisfaction over and above personal gains.

4. Mindset

It goes without saying that our mood or mindset can have immense sway over our attitude and behaviour, the way we see our experiences and those around us. So happiness or a personally satisfying life needs an enduring mood or mindset and a capacity for self-government (Grayling, p.281).

Nietzsche the German philosopher also tells us that the secret of a fulfilled life is to‘ live dangerously’. Maybe we could take that to mean more than the literal and to think courageously and believe in ourselves as well.

5. Action (in training)

The original cynic Antisthenes believed that through rigorous training, happiness could be achieved. Hugh Mackay too seems to subscribe to this view when he suggests what leads to the deepest sense of satisfaction is self-respect, based on self-control and self-discipline (p.26).

Viktor Frankl famously wrote in his seminal work, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’  “It is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

Ultimately it is our choices and actions on a day-to-day scale that define how meaningful our life might be. Give life a ‘good’ go, learn from the ‘bad shots’ and a satisfying life could well just be the more worthwhile quest.

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Good Time To Stop

In an age of busyness and hyper-control, it’s bizarre to think that it takes an extreme weather event to stop us in our tracks.

While Cyclone Debbie tragically brought its fair share of destruction to our fellow North Queenslanders, it inadvertently brought a bit of goodwill last week to the rest of the state.

In closing down schools, workplaces and in some cases cutting off electricity, it forced many of us to stop and lay low at home.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that with three little boys at home, this could’ve gone terribly bad. But on the whole, it didn’t.

Yes there were episodes of boredom, moments of madness and cabin fever hits us hard in the second hour, but these were duly noted and we moved on……….eventually!

Time was spent as a family just hanging out, actually playing together, making a mess and generally eating all day.

There was time for talk; nonsense and quality and time for staring out the window.

I can’t remember the last time we honestly did that.

Time and all the obligations and distractions of life were not our dictators for a change.

Instead we had to accepted that we were at the whim of nature, destined to remain within the safe confines of our home and the unpredictability of the goings on inside it.

It’s a confronting revelation to know that we indeed aren’t in control of everything, even though we like to think we are.

The concept of immediacy and the momentum of technological distractions, means that we’re forever chasing life and never actually catching up with ourselves and each other.

Taking the time to stop chasing, stop procrastinating and just existing, is good.

And good is what we all need a little more of.

Not awesome, not great, not even productive. Just good.

An extreme weather event brought a forced ‘stop’ to a hectic life, a chance to calm the storm within and a timely message that simply just being, can do us all a whole lot of good.

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