Whether the phrase "back to school" sends shivers down your spine, or makes you look excitedly for your pencil case, most of us have associations with September and learning. Notice we said learning and not school. That's because we want to blast the classroom doors wide open and suggest that learning (versus school) is a joyfully broad way of engaging with the world that directly tickles our well being bone.
As kids we love to learn: exploring, making connections, experimenting, filling the sand pail and emptying it out again. Left to our own devices we could become completely absorbed in learning, often in the form of play. While there are reasons we may loose touch with this innate desire to learn (Thank you very much, Mrs. Ritchy.), reconnecting with our curiosity and the excitement of discovery turns out to be one of the core ingredients in well being. Learning is at the heart of mastery, accomplishment, and flow, all of which nourish our brains as well as our souls.
Think of something you know how to do, like ride a bike, cook, or cheat at Monopoly. What got you started? Envy? Hunger? Lust? Opportunity? Can you remember what you did? Did you watch someone? Did you read about it? Did you try and fail and try again? Did someone help you, or did you do it on your own?
If you are feeling a bit rusty in the learning department, or say you have been overwhelmed by having to learn something yucky like the new tax code, it's worth taking a few minutes to reflect on how you enjoy learning. Each of us has a preferred learning style. For example, do you like to learn by (check all that apply):
Being with others?
Being on your own?
Years ago while living in Japan, Beth taught English to steel workers. Since many of these men had negative associations with formal Japanese schooling and were physically oriented, the classroom and methodology were redesigned accordingly. There were no desks, or even chairs, this being Japan, just a big room. The lessons involved movement exercises that explored the rhythm of the spoken language, and acting out scenes that were fun for them. Grammar emerged, and the students, mostly older men who had worked together for years, were taught how to teach each other. By removing negative cues and giving them just enough structure to progress at their own pace, these men learned not only English, but how to love learning again, which was (remarkably) their company's ultimate goal!
Next up: What to learn? Again, it's time to think beyond readin', writin' and 'rithmatic and let your imagination seek out the nooks and crannies of your desires. What are you curious about? What would expand your world? What would deepen your understanding? What would be fun? What would be useful and of long term benefit?
Hopefully you are beginning to see classrooms and teachers all around you—in your backyards and neighborhoods, and amongst your neighbors and friends. As Beth's elementary school principal, Mr. Cohen, used to say, "Welcome back everybody. It looks like a great year for learning!"
Do you know your learning style(s) and the best learning environment(s) for you? Knowing this can lead you to a lifetime of rewarding opportunities. Begin by making a list of some things you really enjoyed learning and instances where you found yourself learning really well. Get really specific about what the steps were in your learning as well as the environment, including:
Now look for patterns.
Create a goal that causes you to tingle with excitement like:
Pretend you are 6 years old and follow your nose as you explore the topic. Get as far as you can, and then engage the analytical part of your brain and figure out a couple of next steps to try. Go back and forth between your kid and your adult brain as you learn. Who knows, you may just find yourself having a great time and what could be better for your well being!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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