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A Path to Lifelong Learning

“He who learns but does not think is lost!

He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”

~ Confucius~

Are you a human? Then you were born to learn! Living is learning, adapting, adjusting and finding new approaches and techniques. Every day is a learning opportunity. Are you being intentional about your learning and consciously engaged in the process? If not it is time for a few small shifts.

I often hear people say, “I’m busy.” They are right; they are busy, and what are they busy doing? Lifelong learners are consciously and continuously busy learning. You may have a to-do list; do you have a to-learn list? Right now grab a piece of paper and start your to-learn list by writing questions for which you’d like answers, recording topics you’d like to study such as matters or areas you think sound interesting when they pop up during an online search, listing issues or projects you are struggling to resolve or complete.

Once you have your list, follow this lifelong learning path or create one of your own.

1. Take out the trash. When you view yourself as an expert as you approach learning, you may close the door to deep understanding. The more you know the more difficult it can be to suspend your previous understanding and listen and learn in new ways. You may need to question some basic assumptions, beliefs or truths you have held for a long time. Too often you may try to cram in more understandings or fit new information into old thinking. Just as your computer sometimes needs to be wiped clean to fix a problem, it may be time to clean out your brain and start fresh.

Take out the trash and make room for new information.

2. See the world through the eyes of a child. About the time children’s curiosity, imagination and creativity skyrocket, they become incessant questioners. They especially love the question, why. Why is the sky blue? Why are there clouds? Why can’t I go outside? Why do I have to be nice to that mean man? According to Dr. Greene, author, pediatrician and father of four, “They want to explore this fascinating world with the people they feel the safest around and love the most.”

When children ask why, they are not seeking to find the cause behind something. They are really saying, “This is interesting to me; explore it with me.” If you want to be a lifelong learner, approach life in the same way; constantly ask questions and learn in a safe environment filled with those you love.

Learn to ask good questions “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” Bruce Lee

Be curious and be in insatiable questioner.

3. Be malleable. Learning is about change. Change requires that you be flexible and adaptable. Malleability applies to what you learn, how you learn and how you apply what you have learned. Be open to learning opportunities everywhere.

With the plethora of available information on the web, on television, at work and on the radio, you may need to purify your process of informational gathering; continuously going to the same sources is a sign of stagnation. Find a balance of new and old sources. Living today is like tramping through a jungle of knowledge. Sometimes you just need to trust your intuition to make the right choices and enjoy the adventure of the next learning opportunity.

Learn alone, with others, face-to-face, by reading, by watching videos, listening to podcasts, participating in webinars, taking classes, by teaching others and in any other ways that you can. One of my favorite teachers, Louise Hay, started taking piano lesson in her 80s and took a community painting class with children who were all under the age of ten. When you stretch yourself in how you learn the process becomes its own learning experience.

Teaching others explodes your learning. To teach something well requires a depth and breadth of understanding not necessary when you are a learner. Teaching someone can be a source of pride when you reflect on your own learning process.

Become a yogic learner, stretch, bend and grow insights.

4. Be it! Knowledge is wonderful but wisdom comes in the application of knowledge. Applying what you have learned in new and different ways involves synthesis, creativity and imagination. Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe authors of Understanding by Design, write about six facets of knowing which include the abilities to: interpret, apply, empathize, bring perspective and metacognate. Metacognition is thinking about thinking. To practice metacognition you need to be deeply aware of your own boundaries, recognize your prejudices and projections and be willing to be honest with yourself about yourself. Being metacognitive brings depth to your understanding of self and your learning.

Nurture synthesis thinking. Learn to combine parts of a whole in new and different ways. Learning to think flexibly, determine alternatives and find new ways to accomplish a given task is exciting and can be learned. Synthesis thinking is at the core of creativity. It’s all about hooking and connecting! Open yourself up to new learning and then begin to make connections.

Being it also involves creating time for learning, not relegating it to an activity you do in your spare time. You probably don’t have any spare time. Set aside time to learn. There is a time of day that I consider your sweet time, the time when you seem to get more done in twenty minutes than you ever imagined you could. Use this time to reward yourself by learning something. When the desire to learn comes from within you, setting aside time to be a habitual learner is easier.

Be learning and apply your new knowledge.

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