Knowledge is power, the old adage goes.
Learning has gotten humanity to where it is today. After all, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post if it wasn’t for an exhaustive list of individuals that go way back in time whose want for knowledge was passionate and relentless.
But let’s step back for a moment and leave the notion of knowledge behind.
Yes, the point of learning is to acquire valuable knowledge, but we often forget there’s more to it: the process itself.
The entire process of learning is invaluable to our wellbeing. It’s not surprising that you see many successful, well-rounded and mindful people define themselves as “life-long learners”. Here’s how learning new things is not just acquiring knowledge or helpful skills, but a personal quest for higher levels of wellbeing.
When you learn a new skill, language, or study extensively about something in order to reach a certain goal, there’s the obvious benefit first – you’ll be able to use your knowledge to better your life. You’ll have more confidence knowing that you have added one more thing to the list of your abilities.
But more than that, you’ll have proven to yourself once again your ability to learn new things, which is extremely important for your self-confidence and self-efficacy. Learning something new, even if it’s something you can’t put to use immediately, makes you feel capable, smart, and adaptive, thus strengthening your ability to rely on yourself.
For me, learning how to fix my bike chain in the middle of the street when it fell off was really empowering. It might sound silly, I know, but it was a big deal for me at the moment. I refused to ask passers-by for help, got my phone out, and searched for the instructions on YouTube. It only took a couple of minutes, but I was proud of myself – I had solved a problem by being resourceful, determined, and refusing to feel helpless, and I knew that I can apply this principle to other problems as well.
Focusing on the present
The process of learning requires you to set small goals for yourself in order to reach the ultimate goal eventually – you start with the basics and work your way up, mastering the underlying skills or information on the way. Not only do you feel the joy of accomplishment with each small step, but the minutes you spend actively learning require you to invest yourself entirely in the present moment.
It’s a great exercise for practicing mindfulness and getting in the habit of not stressing about the future, but rather taking the necessary step at this very moment to set the foundations for future success. And that’s a habit we all need to cultivate in every aspect of our lives.
Making you more patient and resilient
Here’s the deal: when you start learning something new, you start by, well, sucking at it, to put it bluntly.
And that’s great; that’s awesome, really. Because there’s no better feeling than becoming better at something that you used to be terrible at – and I say this from experience.
I’ve been learning Spanish for a couple of years now, but I can’t boast that it’s ever been a smooth process – I get by with grammar fine, I trained myself to memorize new words, but when it comes to pronunciation, it just gets frustrating. So for about a year now I shifted my focus to improving Spanish pronunciation and I’m so proud with the progress I’ve made. Most importantly, I’m positive that my determination to not give up on a language I love so much has made me a better person – I learned the importance of accepting our flaws and not letting them exasperate us, because only then can we actively work on them.
Nobody likes being bad at things. But the rocky path of learning forces you to rid yourself of toxic self-criticism, focus on the positive, and accept with humor the fact that you have to look a little silly sometimes.
Pursuing your interests
Cultivating your personal passions is essential to your wellbeing – after all, it’s a way of staying in touch with your inner self and finding purpose beyond the tasks of everyday life. It’s important for our wellbeing that we always look for things that entice our imagination, provide an outlet for our creativity, and reflect our personal values.
This takes conscious effort, especially because most people will find that their jobs, which they spend at least a third of the day doing, aren’t quite a reflection of their personal aspirations and interests.
You might be interested in gardening, building, crafting, dancing, a specific topic or a cause, anything – any hobby or cause requires you to master a set of information or skills, building on them so that you can actively participate in the things that are important to your wellbeing. Learning is what brings us closer to our passions, and that really, truly, enlightens the soul.
Last but not least, when you commit to learning, it eventually becomes a habit. You become more perceptive, and your brain sees opportunities to take something away from any situation. That’s perhaps the most ensuring for your wellbeing, because it ingrains itself in your way of thinking so that you’re more open, both to your inner thoughts and the world around you.
There are many other reasons why learning is important – keeping your brain sharp as you age, connecting with like-minded people, and a plethora of positive individual experiences that it can bring – all crucial to your happiness. So don’t hesitate, and find something new to learn. Sign up for that course, take up that hobby, go to that lecture. We’re lucky that we live in an era that has brought more opportunities to learn than ever.
About Caitlin Evans
Caitlin is a bookworm, photographer and dancer. She is also a graphic designer, but that one is on hold at the moment. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and Universe, Cate is researching and writing about various lifestyle related topics. She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu and caffeine.