One of the most heartening aspects of writing a blog is the continual evidence of how many people are actively striving to learn and develop themselves. It’s easy to become downhearted at the way the world seems. How the media constantly complain about schools and other educational institutions, as if spending on education were a waste of resources. If more reporters paid attention to blogs, they’d see just how much enthusiasm there is for all aspects of learning.
We all know learning is a process of discovery. Sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture is probably the most inefficient way for anyone to learn. I think that’s why some people leave the educational system with little or no sign of achievement, only to more than make up for that lack once they have the opportunity to pursue their own brand of self-development. I’m also sure most teachers don’t want to try to work in this way. It’s the pressure and lack of resources that force them into it — plus the crazy emphasis politicians have placed on standardized tests.
When it comes to learning for yourself, the best friend you have is curiosity. Strong learners are always asking questions. They don’t accept glib or conventional answers. Nor do they assume others, even those in authority or people with a long string of credentials, automatically know better than they do. Experts are a great resource, but need to be used with care. Some of them got their degrees more by knowing how to work the system than by intellectual merit.
If you want learning to work for you, you must create the conditions in which exploration can take place and discoveries can be made. It’s very clear what these are:
- regular time to reflect
- enough leisure to think and explore
- freedom to ask questions
- open-mindedness to the unexpected and unusual
Above all, no learning will take place in conditions of stress and pressure. That’s where learning requires courage: the courage to claim the time and space you need to develop into the person it’s in you to be. Without them, all your efforts to learn and grown will be in vain.
Over at my blog Slow Leadership, I’ve been trying to help leaders understand the importance of slowing down and allowing enough “white space” for creativity and learning to occur. At my other blog The Coyote Within, I’m hoping to spread ideas about the vital importance of learning and growth for a satisfying and enjoyable life. I hope you’ll drop in and visit with me from time to time.
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman and a retired business executive. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.