How to Continuously Learn About Yourself & the World
To thrive in this 21st-century era of change, it’s in our best interest to try to adopt a growth mindset: the belief that our intelligence is not innate, or fixed. It is something we have control over if we exert a bit of tenacity.
What are the first words that come to your mind when you see a small child at work or at play? Curious. Enthusiastic. Joyful. Exploring. Persistent. Confident. They don’t generally worry too much about failure or what others think.
They focus on trying to figure things out. They’re in a state of constant observation. When they get upset or hurt, it’s not forever. Sooner or later, they move on to the next thing. They may cry, but before long, they’re back at it.
They forget minor hurts and can’t be held back from learning and exploring again. When my four-year-old goes off to school in the mornings, we try to make sure she is clean, well-combed, and neatly dressed.
However, she rarely stays that way. Her hair gets messy; she gets paint on her clothes or dirt under her fingernails. She gets skinned knees more often than not. That doesn’t stop her.
People who have what we want – people we admire – almost always have an attitude of self-awareness, of wanting to improve and continually learn. They’re rarely perfect. Strive to let curiosity guide you in all situations.
When we feel anxious or afraid of new situations, our senses tend to go inward and close up. Instead, try to open up and take a minute to notice all the details around you. Be confident that your curiosity is helping you grow in ways you may not even see yet.
What Don’t You Like?
We often try – or pretend – to like things that we don’t actually enjoy in order to fit in with other people. By trying to bend yourself into a mold, you’re going to end up feeling unhappy and untrue to yourself, which is no fun at all!
Rather than forcing yourself into situations that you know you won’t enjoy, learn to speak up when you don’t like something. This is a big part of your personality, so there is no shame in saying no to certain events that you already know you won’t like.
Become comfortable and confident in what you enjoy as well as what you don’t enjoy, and accept that some things just aren’t for you. It doesn’t make you less likeable or less fun to be around just because you don’t enjoy everything!
Be rational and realize that everyone has something that they don’t like eating or doing or talking about. It’s perfectly natural to have dislikes, and learning what they are helps you shape your life around what you do like. By distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (for you, at least), you learn about yourself and how to truly nourish your mind, body, and spirit.
Have you thought about making a list of things you don’t like – this isn’t as negative as it sounds and can actually help reaffirm your own personality to yourself. Rather than trying to be someone you’re not, learn to be okay with who you are, dislikes and all.
What Matters To You?
We all have a set of beliefs and values that are instilled in us by our parents or carers, our schools, and our friends. As we grow up, it can be very easy to stick with these values by default and never really consider whether or not you still believe in them.
Getting to know yourself doesn’t necessarily mean accepting everything that you think you believe. Learn to challenge your own opinions, especially those that have passively entered your life through your upbringing.
Many of us have a set of values that have been heavily influenced by our childhood and which may no longer be relevant to us. Think about what actually matters to you and check that your perceived values are still relevant to how you live your life now, as an adult.
As a child, you may have thought you wanted to get married and have children, but that may now feel like a pressure looming over you as an adult. If that’s still what you want from life, go for it! If not, learn to reshape your values to fit around who you are now, not who you were then. You may want to focus on your career and not have children, so stop letting your teenage priorities hang over you.
Subconsciously, these past values that now clash with your current beliefs may be making you feel inadequate, so banish them from your mind. Find new values that fit in with your life now and work out what really matters to you.
Continue the Self-Education Loop
Once you’ve gone through the process of designing your sandbox, researching how to improve your skill, applying that knowledge to purposeful practice within your sandbox, and getting feedback on your work as you’re going, you simply repeat the process to continue developing your skill.
When you reach a learning goal, or feel like you’ve become comfortable with an aspect of the skill, you have to go back to the research phase to assess what else you need to learn, adjust your sandbox to allow you to learn that skill effectively, then purposefully practice it and solicit feedback to keep pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.
This creates the self-education loop. A perpetual cycle of constant learning and improvement, where you never have to stop improving your abilities or stagnate at a learning plateau: