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Everything is a Learning Experience

A couple of weekends ago I finally got around to assembling a large wooden arbour seat for the garden that we’d bought several months ago. You know how it is, one excuse begets another: the screws for assembly that came with the chair weren’t of good quality so were breaking; the instructions were not very good; bad weather; too busy with work, at home and socially; and so on.

However, when I finally got around to it, it took less than two days. It’s still standing despite gale, rain and storm and everyone who’s seen it has complemented it. Without trying to be arrogant, I have to admit that I’m pleased with the finished result. In fact, I realised that as humble as this task was, I had learnt a lot from it. And, not just that I’m pretty handy at assembling furniture. Completing this task also helped to remind me that each of us can learn a lot simply from completing, what on the face of it is a mundane task.

Learning is much more than academic study, or the training courses we attend to gain practical skills and techniques. As important as ‘structured’ learning about ‘formal’ subjects is, we unconsciously learn new things of great value every minute of every day from the experiences of our everyday lives. As we are not always consciously aware of this new knowledge, we do not always make the best use of it to improve our lives. And, as this learning is more often about ourselves: our likes; our dislikes; our wants; our needs; what works best for us and what doesn’t, we often don’t even recognise it as learning. In fact, even when we recognise that we are receiving this information, we may even see it as useless and unhelpful. We try to follow our course and this learning seems more like interfering ‘noise’ that gets in the way of what we feel that we want to achieve.

In fact, learning from our everyday lives is probably the most important knowledge that we’ll ever acquire. To use an old expression, each successive day of our lives we are learning a bit more about ‘what makes us tick’. Or, as the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is credited with putting it ‘Know Thyself’. Every activity in your life throws up an enormous amount of information about yourself. While not all of it will necessarily be useful, and I’m not suggesting that you spend hours each day navel-gazing, take a few moments at the end of the day to review the most significant occurrences. By consciously identifying a few key learning points; such as what worked, what didn’t, what you would do again, what would you avoid like the plague and so on, you will be able to see how things could be improved in future.

So even if you never ever want to study or attend training again, never lose the desire to learn. To give up on learning is to give up on yourself.