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.