Couldn’t learning just be easy?
But one method does follow the “simple but hard to master” refrain…
In therapy, there comes a point where there is a deep struggle, a sense that you don’t know if you can go forward. Something is too frightening, too shameful, too awful to face.
In stories, there comes a point where the protagonist faces something about themselves, where they realize that what they thought they wanted or needed wasn’t what they truly needed. To move forward, they need to make a tremendous change. They risk losing something vital either way, as all decisions entail risk or loss.
The same goes for learning, even ideas, crafts, new skills or otherwise. Somewhere along the way, when studying in a class or course, when learning from a mentor, we face this moment, this threshold of change. If there was no change, there would be no learning.
Learning, beyond some ability to regurgitate by rote, is a fundamental refashioning of our own fabric. And what can be as scary as changing ourselves?
But there is this beautiful idea I’d read from Paul Tillich – that anxiety is directed at some unclear cloud, while fear is directed at a single object. While anxiety is pervasive, we can point to a fear.
When we pay attention to our worries, they become fears – something we directly see. While this might seem terribly unwanted, it is again the same as it is in story.
Once we have an object to fear, once we can point at it, we can now mount courage. Looking at the fear, we can ask:
> “What about this do I fear?”
It’s not about throwing one’s self into something new, taking impulsive risks, or the like.
It’s fine and often preferable to be calculated in taking action. We can always pause and allow our thoughts and ideas, emotions and concerns to settle. But once they have, once new information is no longer coming in, once new creative approaches no longer come to mind, our options are now in front of us.
Any decision involves risk or loss. Otherwise, there would be no decision. And with the realization that not acting is as much a decision as any other, we can then…
Learning is an action, and one that involves risk and loss, sometimes solely the most precious resource of time, and often more. But as an action, it is one we can consciously decide to take on in order to discover and move forward.
Learning begins with a clear and conscious decision.
The next time you want to learn something, take a moment to pause, to allow honest feelings of wanting to learn to form, and then make the clear decision, “I want to learn this”.