The Good Life – The Ways We Learn

It’s funny how many things in life fall under the category of ?both a blessing and a curse.? One of the things, as far as I’m concerned, is the fact that in this complex and amazing world we inhabit it is simply not possible to ever stop learning.

On the one hand, this is a blessing. After all, who needs a boring life of complacency and stagnant comfort? Human beings are immensely complex creatures, with soaring imaginations and brains that are hard-wired for overcoming challenges and delving into mysteries. On the other hand, though, sometimes all this continual learning can wear a person’s batteries right down.

In my life I am both lucky enough and unlucky enough to be faced with a seemingly never-ending barrage of learning opportunities. These challenges are present for me on every front of my life. They are there in my career, my relationship, my academic endeavours, and (perhaps above all) in my role as a parent.

In all these classrooms of life (both literal and figurative) I have come to understand that the most important element of success for me is having an understanding of myself, and of the way that I learn things.

A good friend of mine, an educator, once told me that each and every person has a different way of assimilating and processing new knowledge. She told me to try and come up with an analogy to describe the way in which I am successful at learning new things. For her, she told me, understanding new things was a lot like baking a cake: it was a process of gathering and organizing the ingredients–the information she needs in order to come to an understanding of something new–and then carefully blending them together, using patience and precision.

When I asked my husband about this, he said that, for him, learning something new and difficult is a lot like fishing. It is a matter of casting a line into the water, and then going into a state of relaxed awareness, and waiting for the ideas that are circling back and forth below the surface to finally ?bite? and take hold. (On the other hand, he tends to relate most things to fishing.)

For my part, the process of learning is a lot like riding a mountain bike up a particularly steep hill. It is really just a matter of gearing down and maintaining my endurance until I’ve made it all the way to the top. Sometimes, of course, It’s not like that. Fortunately, there are moments of swift clarity, when understanding comes like a bolt of lightning. Usually, though, It’s more a matter of perspiration and stick-to-it-iveness. But at least I know.