You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. C. S. Lewis
When asked if they would like to learn something new, most people say they would. When asked if they are in the process of learning something new, most people say they aren’t. Why are people huge fans of learning but reluctant participants?
Learning happens when we connect existing information to new information. Learning is easy when old and new play together nicely. However, learning becomes painful when new information exposes inadequacies in existing information or thought processes. Because people treasure their beliefs, they are reluctant to be vulnerable. It’s hard to say, “I used to think this, but I’ve learned I was wrong.” It’s easier to just avoid learning.
Avoidance doesn’t help the situation. People who avoid learning stop living in the present. They choose to long for the past when their ways of thinking were common. But longing for the past doesn’t fix the problem. It just further disconnects them from reality. We see this in people and organizations. I’ve worked with lots of organizations that are poised for success… when the 1950s return.
For those of us who want to learn something new, here are three things we can do.
- Check out a local craft store or hobby shop. Many offer classes that will teach you a new skill and put you in touch with other creative people in your community. Maybe you don’t want to make a birdhouse. What you make is simply the souvenir of the experience.
- Read a book on a subject you would normally ignore. In the process of reading, ask four exploratory questions: (1) What is the author saying? (2) Why does the author say this? (3) What is one thing I learned while reading? (4) How can I apply that one thing to my life?
- Take apart something you plan to discard and try to use the parts to create something totally new. This sounds simple, but it represents advanced levels of the cognitive and affective domains. Don’t throw away your old VCR. Take it apart and make jewelry from the shiny parts inside.
It’s one thing to want to learn; it’s another to actually engage in the process. Desire that doesn’t lead to action is a waste of brain energy. Think about it.
What is one thing you want to learn? Which of the three suggestions above will be most helpful to you?