Our ordinary attitude towards learning will not let us be sustainable!

I am a passionate learner. I love learning so much that I made learning even my profession. And yet I recently found out in a session with a trainer colleague – and I can hardly believe I’m writing this now – that deep in me there is an unconscious dislike towards learning. This was an unexpected discovery.

During this session, we realized that the way in which learning is happening in our current culture and the experiences we both have had with learning have engraved deep beliefs in our systems that prevent us from fully and openheartedly engaging in the process of learning.

Learning in our culture today usually means that we are not quite ready, still not good enough. Learning takes place in institutions such as schools, which shall prepare us for life. In our culture learning is separated from life, it comes before living – first we need to learn and then we can live. Yet in these institutions they mainly stuff knowledge into our heads, which does not prepare us in any way for real life.

The continuous judgment, which goes along with learning (good/bad, pass/fail , etc.) and the punishment that is also associated with it (having to repeat a year, etc.), transforms learning into a winner/loser game, based on competition, where we are delivered to the judgment of so-called authorities (teacher, professor, etc.). No wonder, that we are happy, when we are finally ‘ready’ and ,have finished learning’. This state in the future we constantly long for. But when we finally have reached so far, we have already developed such a conscious or unconscious aversion towards learning, so we try to avoid new learning situations.

This happened not only to people who hated school! I personally loved school – but only because I was on the winners side! I had the advantage that I could rapidly memorize knowledge and therefore I was able to use the game in my favor. But it had nothing to do with real life. I was not in any way better prepared for life, as any of my classmates. And although I was a winner, it didn’t prevent me from developing an aversion towards learning.

This widespread ‘learning disorder’ can be fatal for us today. And with that I don’t mean only my little personal life. The speed in which the circumstances in our world are changing, grows constantly. The global challenges that are to be mastered in the near future, require the ability to learn rapidly and to discover new possibilities in due time. But if we are unconsciously not willing to learn, meaning to make mistakes, to experiment, to fail and get up again, it will be difficult for us to shape our future. But life does not stop just because we have lost the joy of learning. And if we do not shape our future, then the future will shape us – whatever that may look like.

The state we so much yearn for, to be ,done’ and ‘have finished learning’ is an illusion! It means to be dead! Life equals learning! And learning is one of the most beautiful and magical abilities of human nature! Everyone who has ever watched a small child learning to walk – full of passion, patience, courage, tenacity and fun – know’s what I’m talking about. To be fit for the future, we have to win back this attitude towards learning and have to develop a new perspective on the process of learning.

This map shows a distinction between the traditional and the new perspective on learning:

Learning – traditional perspective

Learning – new perspective

takes place in our head (intellectual) takes place in all four bodies (physical, intellectual, emotional, energetic)
comes before living / is separated from life (first I have to learn, than I can live) learning is living
is linear (first A, than B, than C) is nonlinear
the purpose of learning is to be ‚ready‘ and to be fully educated (it is a state in the future) learning belongs to living like breathing (from the first breath to the last)
our centre is in the future, because we want to reach the state of being ‚perfect‘ We are always able to act, even when we‘re learning – our centre is in the present – we can do it now
we are judged with grades (good/bad, A to D) we are getting feedback: what did work, what did not work, which other options do we have
is tyring / is always serious and hard is high level fun
it is about passing or failing (= winning or losing) is an ongoing process: go – beep – shift – go – go – go
you have to prove, that you are capable no proves are necessary
is depending on the judgment of ‚authorities‘ (teachers, professors, gurus, …) I’m my own authority and ask others for feedback
I should already be able to do it, that means learning is not ok / is a weakness not knowing is ok / starting is ok / learning is ok
means, that I am not yet good enough means, I am alive
comes along with emotional fear of failing and being punished comes along with authentic adult fear, which informs us that we are about to try something new
fear is bad – fear causes a black out fear is useful – it is the motor of new experiments and innovation – fear is ok
who does not get it at once, needs tutoring life continues offering opportunities to learn
who get’s it at once, is the winner rapid learning is a natural human ability
knowledge is power / control knowledge without action is useless; knowledge leads to responsibility
there is a given curriculum and a clear concept of what a person has to know, to be a recognized member of society something completely new and unusual is possible; contains unlimited possibilities
makes us fighting and competing creates teamwork

Which side of the map are you living in?

With love,

Useful questions:

  • What are your deep (and maybe unconscious) beliefs regarding the process of learning?
  • How do you react on feedback from others? Do you avoid feedback or do you ask for it?
  • Have you created your life as a learning space for yourself, where you get ongoing feedback or as a feedback free zone?
  • Did you learn something new today or have you improved any ability of yours? Look carefully, because learning happens everywhere and ongoing – even if we are not aware of it.
  • Do you still avoid to enter new situations because of the fear of being not good enough or the fear of failing?