Back-to-School Season Inspires Lifelong Learning

By: Aswynn Willowroot

The first delicate wisps of autumn permeate the air with a great unspoken power.

It is the gift of potentiality.

As adults we watch children scurry to meet a new school year resplendent with shiny new backpacks, supplies and most importantly, a true sense of adventure.

Although many of us may no longer be students in the traditional sense, it doesn't mean that we cannot harness this back-to-school "energy" for ourselves.

In fact, self-designed and experiential learning helps us to truly engage with the world and learn from it on our own terms.

Joichi Ito, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory, said in a March 2014 TED talk that learning, in and of itself, can actually be of more value than a formal education.

"Education is what people do to you and learning is what you do for yourself...what you need to learn is how to learn," said Ito.

Meaningful learning occurs when we customize a self-education program to align itself with our individual interests. By creating our own curricula, we successfully open ourselves to, not only intellectual edification, but also feelings of positive self-worth and accomplishment.

Gary Marcus is a cognitive psychologist and director of the New York University Center for Language And Music. He is author of the book "Guitar Zero."

In a CNN.com article entitled "Learn Something New--Your Brain Will Thank You," Marcus writes, "learning a more lasting new skill--be it playing guitar or learning to speak a foreign language--can equally harness the brain’s joy of learning new things, but leave you with something of permanent value...it leaves you with a sense of fulfillment, which goes back to what pioneering psychologist Abraham Maslow called 'self-actualization.'"

The best way to begin is to first map out a practical strategy which encourages learning to become a natural part of your day-to-day life. Here are some simple steps to help you embark on your self-education journey:

1. Make it fun. Whatever you choose to learn should be pleasurable. The enjoyment of learning is diminished when you cannot fully savor the joy of the experience.

2. Follow your passion. Whatever it is that ignites your passion may very well be your greatest learning experience. Follow your heart. It knows the way.

3. Jump in with both feet. Immerse yourself fully. In order to ensure the best learning experience possible, you cannot maintain one foot in the sea and one foot on the shore. Make a choice and dive in.

4. Be persistent. Life regularly gets in the way of what we plan. Overcome obstacles by making a firm commitment to your learning quest. Start small and gradually add more.

5. Utilize resources wisely. There are a million and one excuses the ego-mind typically can find to avoid trying something new. Professing to not have the time, money or means is usually an exaggeration. Creativity is the key. There are books, libraries, websites and helpful mentors--all of which can be free, if you know how to ask or where to look.

Chat now with a spiritual advisor!

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