Lifelong Learning is an Act of Courage
I was teaching an international economics course back in the U.S., and I remember one ‘mature’ student, probably in his 30’s telling me how excited he was about what he was learning in the course. He found himself reevaluating his beliefs and assumptions, seeing the world through a different set of eyes. His father had supported his decision to leave his job and return to school to get his degree. But as my student began to question the things he had always ‘known,’ his father became more disagreeable, finally telling him that had he known he was going to question everything he had taught him, he never would have supported his dream for a university degree.
This story highlights a lesson I learned in university. One of my professors challenged us to describe a belief we had. Then he asked us if we had ever held that belief up to scrutiny–had we read or discussed arguments against it to see if it still made sense. He asked us to describe where the belief came from. Most of us answered ‘our parents’ or ‘society’. No one admitted to having sought opportunities to subject our beliefs to scrutiny.
He told us that in that case, we could not claim them as our beliefs. We had just repeated what others had told us. He challenged us to always be mindful of our perceptions and beliefs. It is scary to do that sometimes (as my student and his father’s reaction illustrate). It’s a normal tendency to avoid confronting one’s perceptions, expectations, and behaviours. After all, you might discover that they don’t work for you and you have to make adjustments to look at the world through a different lens.
Lifelong learning is all about moving forward, which means the landscape will change. This constant change means we have to be mindful of our perceptions, expectations, and behaviours so we can adapt to the new landscape. At work, the technology we use, the processes we apply, and the people who work with us are all changing. I think it’s exciting, but then I welcome opportunities to check if the way I am doing things fits the situation I’m in. I know that if I keep doing things the same old way, as the workplace changes, I may not get the results I want. How about you?