Learning and Well-Being
Living is learning. Every day we are learning new things and re-learning old things. Sometimes we are very aware of what we are learning and other times it can seep into our sub conscious and dwell there unbeknownst until called upon. There are times we set forth to learn something or do something we have never done and other times we are minding our business and happenstance happens to teach us something. Learning comes in all shapes and sizes.
Let’s say you have a general interest in being a life-long learner. Certainly there are any number of ways you could channel that interest. You could purposefully put some time into learning something new. I know a math teacher who is a bit of a whiz who taught himself Mandarin on his phone. Then, once he learned it sufficiently, he decided to take a year or so off and go to China and see what happened. That is the thing about learning - you are never quite sure where it will take you.
I imagine we would agree that we all could learn more about anything if we invested some time in doing so. Carol Dweck, PhD calls that having a growth mindset - you know that even if you have minimal skills if you put some effort into learning you could improve your ability. You might learn a little about something and say that is enough or you may continue to want to invest time and energy into actively learning something and see what begets what. You could end up in China.
I was speaking with a colleague who is a few years away from retirement and I asked her what she wanted to do when she retired. First she said "Play bridge." Then she said she wanted to learn more about legislative bills and see which bills she wanted to advocate for and support. Who knows, one day we may be voting for something she brought to our awareness. Or she may just focus on learning more about the world of playing bridge a few times a week. I imagine if anyone of us did something for a few hours a week that involved others we might even make new friends and who knows what they are going to bring into our lives.
One way or the other we all are learning all the time. Whether you want to or not, life is continually dealing out situations you need to learn to navigate. Maybe because I was a sailor, I often think of life as something you need to navigate. You need to find safe harbors and you need to spend time sailing the seas, facing the elements and finding you way to wherever it is you want to go. And all along the way you are learning how to live your life.
I have a friend who was fishing off a pier. He was not very experienced and was fumbling around with baiting the hook. A young boy was fishing next to him and noticed my friend's discomfort and offered to show him to bait the hook. He showed my friend how he did it and then my friend took his suggestion and baited his own hook. After which the boy said "Mister, you are a good learner." That is one of sentences that still runs through my friend's thoughts. He liked being thought of as a good learner. Perhaps you do too, although we all are probably better learners in some areas than others.
I have experienced myself not doing something because I did not think I would do it well. I can be reluctant to fumble around and be awkward. I don't provide the best support for myself in making mistakes and not doing as well as I would like. I am much better today than I have been about having an accepting attitude about my lack of knowledge and skill. But I could use a growth mindset about my own learning. Some days I can even find my own enthusiasm for allowing myself to do something at a level that feels less than desirable to me. I can own my beginner and let him free to learn. I can also hide him and keep him from learning new things.
It is important for me when I don't live up to my idealized self to applaud my ability to take chances, make mistakes and appear foolish to me (and maybe others). The acceptance and delight I can take in allowing myself to be an inept learner is important to me. As life unfolds in ever new ways I want to open my mind and heart to the fact that it is all unknown and I will do my best to continue to learn how to life my life and aim for being my best self. Go gentle with yourself David I need to keep learning.