Have you noticed the little slogan at the top right-hand corner of this blog? It’s not just a toss away phrase to fill up screen space. I really do want to understand things, people, and life. I enjoy sharing some of the observations I’ve made with people who also have a curious nature.
I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who either needed formal continuing education or had a life-long desire to improve their lives through their own reading and research. I’m thinking of teachers, doctors, engineers and other professionals who must know the latest information and techniques. I’m also thinking of my paternal grandfather, who loved to investigate novel ideas and gadgetry.
I remember, as a young teen, tossing and turning after a particularly difficult day. I was tormented because so many of the people I observed, just conformed with accepted truths and knowledge. The people rarely understood why they went along with such ideas and strong opinions. I wondered why so many people are uninformed and wrong about so many things in life. I did not want to have a life like theirs at all. I made a vow to get to the bottom of things.
Of course, I frequently run into folks who believe that education is something that we finish. They think we no longer need to bother with self-education. They form deep convictions and beliefs based on borrowed opinions and inaccurate hearsay from authority figures. They don’t feel moved to investigate current issues from all sides. As a result, they become more entrenched in beliefs and unwilling to expand their worldviews.
Of course, I didn’t really need to make a vow to learn. Learning is something I enjoy, like good food and fresh air. Other curious people and I have been drawn together as friends and acquaintances. We find each other at libraries and book stores. We meet at social events and engage in conversation. Now, there’s also the Web. The world is at our fingertips. Mental Nirvana.
We can easily become distracted by the wealth of data and information on the Web. It’s easy for our attention to become scattered when we try to sharpen a new skill or research a particular topic. Because there is nobody present to keep us focused on our continuing educational efforts, we need to learn this discipline as a help to ourselves.
What works for me, is to keep notes and exercises on physical paper with pen or pencil. In my case, if these are stored on electronic media, I’m more prone to getting distracted by extraneous stuff on the Web. I can access my conventional, paper notebooks and not worry about electronic malfunctions or mass storage crashes. I retain knowledge better if I write it onto paper with ink or pencil. (There are people who do not like this method, and I’m OK with that.) Obviously, if a person is striving to learn how to sketch, solve mathematical problems in longhand, improve handwriting, relearn cursive, or develop writing skills in another language, paper, pencil and pen are mandatory.
If you’re really serious about learning, I recommend purchasing textbooks. If you live near a college or university, you can pick up textbooks from the student book store. To save money, buy the used copies. The other option is to purchase textbooks from an online seller like Amazon or eBay. With textbooks, we can adopt a formalized learning plan like an actual student. We can take notes, use highlighters to mark important words and passages, and we can take exams by answering questions at the end of each chapter. In this way, we can redevelop effective study skills.
A person can supplement learning by taking a night course or finding lectures and relevant videos on the Internet. There are also relevant discussion groups on social media.
Whether you take up self continuing education to brush up on professional skills or out of a hunger for learning, do-it-yourself education can expand your understanding of people and topics. There is no substitute for the enhanced richness of life as you continue to grow. As you travel down the path of self continuing education, you become less fearful of the unfamiliar and the unknown. You become privy to more of the secrets of the world around us and the Universe.
The Blue Jay of Happiness suggests that you spend at least one week, reading and watching material with which you strongly disagree. Pay attention to how you feel and your level of empathy. Write down those observations.