So when do you stop learning? Are you a life-long learner? Have you grown up resisting learning? Is learning something you dread? Do you avoid learning whenever possible?
I think many people would give some “negative leaning” answers to previous five questions. Most humans are born with a natural desire for learning. Most young children have a vibrant curiosity that allows them to investigate and/or study almost anything. So what happens as we get older? Why do so many of us view learning as difficult and unpleasant? We start out as active learners ready to learn almost anything and end up turned off to learning. In fact, I know a lot of people that immediately say no to anything that involves learning something new. Why?
Before I address the “why” of learning that is turned-off, I think it is interesting to note that if you “google” life-long learning, you will get over 700,000,000 hits. Wow! Yes, that is impressive, but what does life-long learning mean to most of us? I think most of the websites about life-long learning refer to programs for adult education classes. There is nothing wrong with that, but learning is something that we should always be doing. In fact, I think humans are always learning, but the question is, what are they learning? It seems to me that the word “focus” comes into to play here. You see, whatever we focus on, either consciously or subconsciously, is usually what we end up learning something about. Of course, interest plays a role in most of our learning. A synonym of interest is curiosity and as mentioned before, almost all children have a vibrant curiosity. OK, so you can most likely see where I’m going with this. We, as humans, are born with a natural curiosity and desire for learning. Sometime during our childhood, we seem to lose this curiosity and desire. Why?
Maybe we get turned off to learning because that is what we are taught to do. Whaaaaat…..? Parents, relatives, teachers, religious leaders, government officials, etc. often teach us, through what they do and how they do it, to expect failure, boredom and disappointment from what we do in life. Many of these people are held in high esteem by children and therefore are believed. Children often behave based on what they believe. In fact, adults usually behave based on what they believe. If we don’t have anything in our education to counter these negative beliefs and behaviors, then they become part of who we are – people who think that learning means failure, boredom and disappointment. OUCH!
So what should we do, if we have a negative attitude toward learning? Unlearn that negative attitude. Failure is normal. Learn from it. Boredom is a mental feeling that only the person who is bored is responsible for. Disappointment, I believe, is a normal feeling that when experienced, should be treated as an emotion to learn from. In fact, all three, failure, boredom and disappointment are past and present concepts that do not imply what will happen in the future. Learn from them and move on. Is that a simple answer? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that describing what to do is short and easily stated. No, in the sense that doing it must be done over a complete lifetime with many failures, boring times and disappointments. In other words, we must always be learning how to learn. Also, many studies have shown that active learners stay healthier, live longer and have an outstanding quality of life. Yea!