“I am still learning.” — Aristotle (at 87 years old) — But are you? Continuing to learn and apply what you learn is very hard to decisively build into a perpetual habit. The one thing that generally blocks each individual’s continuous learning is their own, self-constructed barriers toward curiosity with both personal and professional growth. It’s just not comfortable for most people.
A unique perspective on continuous learning from John Gardner in his book Self- Renewal. “By their mid-thirties most will have stopped acquiring new skills or new attitudes in any central aspect of their lives. As we mature we progressively narrow the scope and variety of our lives. Of all the interests we pursue, we settle on a few. Of all the people we might associate, we select a small number. We might become caught in a web of fixed relationships. We develop set ways of doing things.”
All of us need and rely upon a fundamental level of continuity in our lives. Society and our institutional work within society would be complete bedlam without forms of continuity. We are all okay with the continuity of a vast majority of people stopping their car at or near the indication of a red traffic light. But that form of continuity doesn’t mean that we can never again have a first impression or a fresh perspective on a variety of other aspects in the real world.
With continuous learning and the application of that learning, we would never lose the capacity to see what is before us and strive to understand it better and to self-reflect on ourselves as either a part of the problem or the solution.
With the onset of a new year upon us, each of us should self-initiate renewed efforts toward an endless and unpredictable dialogue with our potential and the difference we can make around us. Self- initiate your own perpetual education. There is incredible power in seeking new life experiences and the opportunity to make things better for others. Not making time for the habit of learning and applying what you learn is constructing your own red traffic light on your lane of the interstate.
“When we have learned to achieve self-renewal, we shall have discovered one of the most important secrets a society can learn, a secret that will unlock new resources of vitality throughout society.” — Reinhold Neibuhr — Modern Education and Human Values (1948)