I have been thinking a lot about learning recently whilst preparing materials for workshops, participating in an online workshop and helping my son get through his GCSE's.
Learning has, to some extent, become all about succeeding at school and university, about getting the next job, about keeping pace with the world in which we live, about surviving what life throws at us..
Does that mean we now approach learning as a competition where success is paramount? Learning should be as much, if not more, about personal growth - an investment in ourselves and our lives.
When we were small learning was fun and about making sense of the world around us. We soaked up information like a sponge and had an almost insatiable curiosity about everything. I love seeing babies and toddlers with that look of wonder as they gaze around them. I will admit to being grateful, however, that I am well past the continual 'Why?' toddler stage!
We engage in some form of learning everyday - sometime just in order to cope with the demands of the changing world around us. We have to learn to adjust our parenting techniques as our children grow, we have to learn to use new apps and technologies that will 'make our lives easier', we have to learn to make sense of events that maybe challenge our perceptions and beliefs, (today learning not to lose the plot when your website crashes and doesn't save your blog post!)....I could go on and therein lies a problem - there is so much information readily available to us all these days there is a danger of overwhelm. For me there are always new developments to keep pace with as technology continues to improve the performance of cameras and software and that can be hard to keep up with.
But I love learning something every day. Sometimes it's about me, about work, life or people. Sometimes its random facts; thank you The QI Elves - @qikpedia on Twitter - for the lots of interesting but totally random things I can learn from you every day - who knew that Alberta, Canada is a rat free zone with rat patrols on the state borders and fines for owning pet rats!
To get the most from learning I have to notice it. Without that I would not get the full benefits of learning: confidence building and all that goes with that, connecting with people who share my passions (my tribe if you like), connecting with people I may not have come across otherwise, recognising my growth over time, feelings of accomplishment, being challenged and so on. In other words noticing what I learn makes me connect with myself as well as the world around me. Noticing is not necessarily just when it's successful - it's more about asking "What did I learn today?"
Learning for me is about my growth. It might be useful for the business but more importantly it is about my life's journey. So learning Spanish (slowly and surely) is going to be useful for the Spanish photography workshops in the future but I also started it to prove to myself that I could learn a language and dispel the belief instilled in me at school that I am rubbish at it. That's a work in progress. Learning about running my business and all that that entails adds to my knowledge and challenges me every day.
Over the last few weeks I have been deeply saddened by all the lives cut short by events in Manchester and London, as I am sure you are.
But it made me stop and think about what's important and made me rethink how I use my days. Now I spend time with those I love, make time for doing the things I love all which is making time for me to grow. I made a start on a project with wildflowers that has been rattling around in my brain for ages. How many projects do we put 'on the shelf' for later? Do it now if it's really important to you - don't leave it too late.
So I am looking out at the world with the eyes of a toddler with wonder and curiosity and loving learning everyday. What will it be today?