The act of learning is what helps us develop, grow, and actualize our full potential. The problem is that most people regard learning as being something that happens at the beginning of life, and then you get to reap its benefits in the long run. It turns out that’s not the right mindset. Because we are destined to grown, develop, and improve for as long as we live, learning should be an integral part of that process.
Learning and Formal Education
I remember being in elementary school, way back at the beginning of the 80s, when my official learning path had begun. Our school’s building hosted all grades from first through twelfth, and the corridors were packed at recess time, I can tell you that.
Logically, the lower grades occupied the lower floors, and as you advanced through school, you’d go higher. It doesn’t matter where I was; I remember always thinking, when do I get to move up? Elementary school was annoying, and I wanted to be in middle school.
When I got to middle school, I almost immediately started to wish myself in high school. The kids there were much cooler, and I didn’t have to learn all this crap. Instead, I’d finally learn the things I wanted to learn.
And then I reached high school, and things weren’t that much different.
Although I can say that in the end, though I truly enjoyed school, I remember always wanting it to be over already. I wanted to move on to the next thing, and I wanted to do life, not school.
Obviously, that time eventually came—the time when school was done and life began. A new chapter of no more learning but applying. Work and family. Living the dream. Oh, yeah!
Once I had stepped into the proverbial workforce, it didn’t take me long to realize that I needed about 10% in my actual work from everything that I had learned in school. And the problem was that I lacked the rest. Completely.
And not just for the job, per se, but for life in general. What in the world?
Yes, I agree that all that school stuff helped shape my brain and expand my horizons, but it had a minimal direct effect on my life as a self-sufficient adult. The theory was great, but it didn’t translate into practice at the snap of my fingers. I still needed to learn. Damn.
Sound familiar? I’m sure I am not an isolated case. You must’ve felt this way when you landed your first job, right after school, if you were lucky.
Now, you have to fake it till you make it, as they say. So, for the next five years or so, you slowly grow into your profession. The things you have learned in school begin to fade away, unused, cast into the back of your mind. A glimpse of Pythagoras’s theory or the Mendeleev Periodic Table comes to you now and then, but usually, to make a joke, not apply it anywhere in your work.
You start being laser-focused on what you do, and that starts to define who you are little by little. I’m a doctor, you might say. I’m an architect. You gain a label, and that label once more signifies your passage into a new stage of life. As a listener, when you hear somebody labeling themselves in that manner, you immediately infer what they meant by it. But what if someone came to you and said, “I am a learner”? I learn.
You’d probably ask, “So, you’re a professor of some sort? Are you one of those people who’s forever a student?”
That’s the sad but true reality. People don’t expect you to learn anymore now that you are done with school. Now you must be a useful member of society and pay your damn taxes.
I think that’s bullshit, excuse my French, and totally backward. I believe that learning should be woven into our lives continuously and deliberately, not just something that gets pushed onto us every time somebody else decides that it’s time to get a new promotion. Life is learning. I genuinely believe that.Learning should be woven into our lives continuously and deliberately. Life is learning. Click To Tweet
Most of the things in your life are a direct result of something you’ve learned. As much as you’d like to think that even deeply-rooted elements of your character, such as values and beliefs, are ingrained into your DNA, they’re not. They’re learned. Behaviors are learned, and attitudes are developed, much like learning how to solve a math equation.
So should you stop learning after you’re done with school and have selected your profession?
Of course not. But there’s a difference here. During your childhood, it was your parents and grandparents who forced learning on you. Perhaps you remember, maybe you don’t, but you probably resisted it. If you have kids today, you can see their reaction to it. Kids want comfort, and learning implies discomfort. Walking, eating by yourself, going potty. That’s all learning, and, as a child, you have little say about it.
Your parents send you to swim lessons, art classes, dance rehearsals. They make you learn various things, hoping that one will stick and, perhaps, develop into a passion.
Later, school enters your life. Now, besides your parents, who want to see those good grades, you have the teachers. They make you learn. They give you homework, and it’s a new level of learning. Whether they care about you or not, you yourself have to care about your grades because a slip up here might derail your entire life.
As time goes by, you begin to develop a sense of self. Although there’s a lot to learn in school, you start to enjoy some things, hate others, and be indifferent to many. You start to find your niche. In time, you get excited about some subjects and become self-motivated in learning about them. Curiosity develops. You start to discover and become proactive about it.
But there’s always that grade, that GPA, like a teasing carrot dangling at the end of the tunnel. You know you need it for college, and you must have it.
Later, in college, the carrot is your degree. That final diploma that states in very few words that you are ready to be an adult. Or maybe it wasn’t college, but a technical school where you learned a craft. Whatever it is, you have accumulated enough knowledge, and now you must garner the wisdom to apply it in the real world.
The School of Life
But, what if you didn’t think that way? What if that cut-off time after you finished college or the training for your craft wasn’t such a definitive one? What if you looked at your entire life as one long stretch of school?
The first twenty years are the elementary school of your life. The next twenty, the middle school. The next twenty are the high school of your life, and the following twenty are college.
But in this school of life, there’s only one entity looming above you checking your homework, and that’s you.
I know it’s daunting to think this way because of the things I mentioned above. Everyone wants to be finished with school so that they can start their “real” life. I think that’s a distorted view.
Life doesn’t consist exclusively of your skills, knowledge, and wisdom. There are vast parts of your character that you don’t even touch in school. For all intents and purposes, you are not a fixed person. No matter how much you’d like to think that you are finished growing, time will change you. Events will change you. The world will change and evolve around you.
So why not be deliberate about it? Why not learn how to change, and stay ahead of the curve? Why not help your brain grow and your character develop?
You see, learning feels like a chore. Like something that you’re forced to do. You immediately think about homework and study and feeling anxious. That’s true for an actual school. But in the school of life, you are the principal, and you make the rules. You can be as lax or strict as you’d like.
All you need is a plan.
Knowledge and Learning Are Power
“The more you learn, the more you earn,” Warren Buffet once said. The more you learn, the better you live, I want to add. Your relationships with your loved ones, your abilities, and your passions (whether they exist already or not) are all fueled by constant learning.
Developing this kind of curiosity that spans all aspects of your life is a primordial requirement to accomplishing more throughout your lifetime. Curiosity is fueled by experimentation.
Try things out. During every year of your life, choose something new, and dabble in it. It might not be your cup of tea, but what if it is? You’d never have known about it unless you tried it. By being deliberate about learning, you begin to control the shaping of all aspects of your life.
It’s tempting to think that our mental side is the one where learning has the most impact. To some extent, that’s true. Your skills and capabilities—the things you know and can do—are a part of your mental abilities.
But learning doesn’t stop there. Emotional and even physical learning are critical aspects of our lives. Communicating, being empathetic, listening, and giving feedback are vital elements that are often disregarded.
And there are other things, too. Think about sex: You got into it at some point in your life. Are you good at it? Maybe so, and if that’s the case, great. But is there anything else you think you might learn that could make your and your partner’s sex life better? I’m sure there is, but most people don’t think about it.
The point here is that accumulating knowledge is a precursor to using that knowledge properly. You first need to know. Once you know, you experiment with applying that knowledge in life. And just as in school, when you sometimes failed an exam and went back to the books to study and recover, many things you learn in the school of life won’t work for you. But the act of attempting to learn them, and trying them out, is what opens the doors of your mind. It expands your horizons and turns you into a person who not only understands the need to grow as a human but actually takes steps toward that.
Learning as a Part of Your Life
In time, learning becomes fun. It turns into a platform that kindles excitement and acts as a stepping stone toward your passions. It’s no longer something that you dread. Instead, it becomes something you crave.
For the lack of a better word, you must learn to love learning. That process is complicated because it’s not easy to connect it directly to a result when you start. You have to believe in the process and trust that it will show up in your results.
In school, you struggle to learn so you can get a grade. A good grade meant that you would graduate, and graduation meant you qualified for the next step in life. You had to believe that so you could push yourself to get the grade in the first place.
When you learn on your own, you don’t have that system by default. So, create it! Every year that goes by, give yourself a graduation. It sounds silly, but it’s no sillier than wearing a square hat and throwing it in the air to signify the start of your life.
Every year you should spend time defining a learning plan for yourself, and when that year ends, look back. Reflect upon what happened and where you are. Give yourself a diploma if you want to take it that far. Plaster it on the wall and show it to your kids. Be proud of it.
Regardless of how you use these gimmicks, you must be able to at least sit down with yourself during your annual review and clearly state the things that you have learned this year. Ideally, you’d be able to touch on a bit of each of your life’s dimensions—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In time, those learning layers will sediment, and you will grow as a human being. You will develop harmoniously because you will develop the self-awareness to identify the things you don’t know, and those things are just opportunities to learn something new.
That ability allows you to go for things you haven’t gone for in the past. Learning becomes an integral part of your life. It’s not a chore or something you’re wary of. It’s something that’s now a part of you, and you love it. So, don’t waste any time and create your lifelong learning plan today!Learning. At first, you dread it. Then, you crave it. Eventually, you'll love it. Click To Tweet
Keep learning, my friends! Never stop!
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- What percent of your current life is spent learning?
- What are some of your favorite learning methods as an adult?
- Can you think of a time when proactive learning has had a positive impact on your life?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!