Are you a lifelong learner? Have you grown up resisting learning? Is learning something you dread? Do you avoid learning whenever possible? Do you ever stop learning?
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? Many of us start out as active learners, ready to learn almost anything, and then end up turned-off to learning. In fact, I know people who 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” lifelong learning, you will get over 500,000,000 hits. Wow! Yes, that is impressive, but what does lifelong learning mean to most of us? I think most of the websites about lifelong learning refer to programs for adult education classes.
There is nothing wrong with adult education classes, but learning is something that we should always be doing and we shouldn’t wait to take a formal class. In fact, I think humans are always learning, but an important question is, “What are they learning?” It seems to me the word “focus” should come 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 also 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 some of us 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.
All three of the previously mentioned feelings – 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!
So, if life is what you want, then lifelong learning will help it last longer with better quality. Shouldn’t we all develop a longing for lifelong learning? Longing for lifelong learning! Don’t you love the aliteration? :-)