I was always fascinated by human potential. Our mind is capable of thinking of the particles hiding inside an atom and calculating the mass of a star light-years away. The innate possibilities in each one of us are tremendous. Whether we strive to use our full potential or not is but a puzzling problem.
But unfortunately, our life is mostly full of repetitions. We keep on doing what we learned, or in some cases certified, to do. It may most certainly be a skill acquired in our teens. We have been doing the same thing for decades now. If we care to take a close look, it is obvious that we are in an endless loop, blissfully oblivious of our true potential.
Whether in our job, relations or the overall understanding of the world, we seldom make progress. Our laziness to learn is the only reason for this. If we are willing, it is in our power to bring about a change. We surely can be better versions of ourselves through a mindset to learn.
Why should we learn?
We are a blessed generation. Unlike our forefathers, almost two generations before, we have choices. They were stuck in their menial jobs without any way out of it. At best, they could become an expert and, if lucky, may get appreciated for it.
However, with so much development in so many fields, we can switch our jobs, move wherever we want and start a new life afresh. Isn’t it a shame that we are not using freedom and not exploring our possibilities?
Moreover, the joy of learning is inexplicable. Usually, when not toiling to make a living, we are in pursuit of momentary pleasures like booze, social media and entertainment. But the joy of making progress each day is as great as the growth achieved through it is perennial. It will benefit us in the long run.
Thirdly, long-term learning can give us a goal in life. Unlike the targets set for us by our society and employer, it will provide a sense of direction. With self-improvement and the joy that comes with it, we will be more and more inclined to set ourselves new goals. Every day hence becomes a fresh and joyful challenge. Someday, if we move in the right direction, it may even equip us to get a job that we love.
Lastly, a growth mindset will improve our understanding of life. The more we learn, the more our worldview widens. Our outlooks become more open and all-encompassing. As we progress, our values also evolve. With it comes positive emotions like empathy, kindness and compassion.
What should we learn?
The next question is what to learn. Think back to your childhood days; haven’t you always wanted to do something? Be it learning to play the guitar, sculpt, or solve puzzles, now you can do it. Remember, there is no one, except you, to stand in your way.
If you are interested in topics like history, philosophy, or psychology, you can sign up for free online classes. If art interests you, there are many courses on painting, sculpting, clay modeling and so on. You may buy some books on the topic, even get some free pdf versions online, and start reading those.
Learning martial arts, swimming, or dancing will be equal parts fun and beneficial. It will get you hooked into exercising regularly and following a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, they can come quite handy in some life situations.
If none of these interests you, learn some life skills. Cooking is a great place to start. You can have fun experimenting with different cuisines and dishes from around the world. You can even work on your listening and communication skills. It surely will gift you with better social relations and good friends.
How should we learn?
With the information overflow, there is no difficulty learning today. Almost everything under the sun can be found just by googling it. Hence it is easy to form a peripheral understanding of whatever we are interested in. But we should not stop there.
For those who want to really learn, there are many online courses. An example is the Massive Online Open Courses by renowned universities, taught by experts in the field. You can sign up for them through online platforms with little or no money.
If you want to go a little more further, you can start reading. Rather than sitting back on the couch and devouring thrillers, you have to start reading actively. Take up long-term reading projects with a focus on topic-specific books. I recently took up reading philosophy and started with History of Philosophy by Will Durant, then continued with Indian Philosophy Volume 1 by Dr. Radhakrishnan. I have now passed the midway point of Indian Philosophy Volume 2 with the hopes of progressing to A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russel.
For those who afford the time, join a university and earn a degree. Even though it requires time and money, it will serve you well all through your life. If you can’t afford that, you may attend lectures and workshops to hone your skills.
The roadblocks to learning
Now, learning is not easy. It requires effort and hence many fall out of it. Moreover, there are many gumption traps associated with learning. They quickly drain away our passion. However, if we know these traps, we can sidestep them easily.
Most people tend to lose motivation after some time. This is a common problem for all. One reason for this is they try to learn something they are not passionate about. Some try to learn a foreign language that they can never practice with someone or have no use in the recent future. Such efforts are difficult to keep up because of their uselessness. Hence it is better to try and learn something that you love.
Another common problem is the lack of time. In fact, it is more the lack of effective time management that is the reason. For instance, it is estimated that an average person spends almost 10 hours a week driving. It translates to 22 days a year behind the wheels. If he can turn off the music and listen to an informative podcast, think of how much time he used effectively for learning.
Nevertheless, if there is one thing that our generation is greatly tormented with, it is distractions. As a generation with Instagram and Netflix fighting to catch our attention, we find it very difficult to focus fully on anything. So if we can handle distractions effectively, we can put our energy into one thing.
The best way to do it is to practice distraction bundling. Take a vow that you will check social media and emails only once in three or four hours. Watch shows only while you are on the treadmill. Through such simple methods, we can tame the distraction monster.
Being a Renaissance Man
Our world is now moving towards hyper-specialization. Everyone digs deep into their field. But the flip side of this is that most turn out to be dummies in all other respects. Such a lop-sided development is unhealthy. If we are ready to learn and develop we can become renaissance man, with knowledge in various fields.
For someone who finds pleasure in learning, life becomes filled with purpose. He will always feel he is doing something worthwhile and constantly making progress. Slowly but surely, he will become knowledgeable in multiple fields and develop diverse skills that will help him navigate through the world with confidence.
We should remember that the best kind of investment is, not the money you deposit in banks or share market, but is the investment in oneself. It will give us the most returns for long periods while also instilling the lost joy in our lives. Can’t we strive for that?
Thank you for reading. Please post your comments below.