Be Challenged, Be Empowered, Blog

Life is a Learning Experience

Welcome to year 2 in the Audacious journey. In the last post you saw some of my heart and desire for this site. My purpose here is to share empowering truths that you can relate to and use to move yourself forward. Every week I set out to bring a new perspective, a hard learned truth, a lesson that improved my life, or affirmation and encouragement for what you are already doing. This endeavor is rooted in my firm belief and constant mission to remember that

“Life is a learning experience”.

What would change in your day to day life if you believed that you were put here to continue to learn and grow and mature every day? Believe that life isn’t full unless you are adding to mental wealth to it every day. That every experience is an opportunity to see yourself in a new light, add a new skill, learn something about someone else?

Your mindset would change first. New light would shine on your boring routines and you’ll see new potential in them. A chance to add some enjoyment to something you have come to barely tolerate. These new eyes that are looking for educational moments in every action will begin to wonder about the foods you’re eating, the water you drink, the way your body moves. Even if no practical changes follow, seeing the world as a source of information and infusing the wonder back into daily life is enough of a gift.

What about in your interactions? If you began to see communication with others as an educational experience what might change? Of course, that mindset change will be visible first. People won’t just be people. The other humans on this earth who we have to jostle through and skirt around and bump past on our way to the things that we actually want to do. Moving through the world becomes a daily psychology class as we start to wonder what made that person do that thing, what did I say that made them react like that, or what else we could have done to have a different outcome. Our interactions with friends become richer as we endeavor not just to listen and offer support, but to understand their situations, to learn what those situations mean to them and say about what they value and struggle to manage. We learn about ourselves as we react to them and consider our replies to their words and emotions.
Strangers become teachers just as valuable as our friends. How easy it is to walk past a hundred people in a day without thinking a moment about them or their stories. If life is a learning experience then these people become a great source of wisdom. After working with people all day, I sometimes find the conversations I am forced into in the grocery store to be almost intolerable. A store clerk recently took it upon herself to tell me a million and one facts about chickens while I waited in line. Even though I know that some of them were false, the difference in my experience when looking through the perspective of learning was striking. My first inclination was to roll my eyes, ignore the know-it-all tone droning at me and start reading the book I was purchasing. Changing my view instead gave me a chance to open my ideas about chickens, remember days spent with my parents in our family coop, and wonder where she was sourcing her information. My life didn’t change from having a growth mindset in that interaction, but my growth mindset changed that interaction, and isn’t that a life changer?

We’re bopping along, learning about the world, seeing things for the educational opportunities they are, and wouldn’t you know, we’re learning as much about ourselves as we learn about the world. Every experience you have unlocks truths about you. New foods, places, sounds, ideas, books-all are windows revealing tidbits about the way you think, what you enjoy, what makes you frustrated, what helps you to calm down, what makes you feel loved, or happy, or pensive. Revisiting those same foods, places, sounds, ideas and books give you incredible insight into how you’ve grown and changed. Don’t just work and talk and consume and play, use those things to learn about yourself. You’re going to be with yourself for the rest of your life, you’re worth getting to know!

Positive self-talk is a constant challenge, one that we’ve talked about here and here and here. Seeing your reactions to the world as information gathering about yourself enables you to have a feeling or react in a certain way without it becoming part of your identity. Being stuck in traffic made you feel impatient, you aren’t an impatient person. You may have spent your life saying “I hate exercise” and done a good job of making it part of your identity. When life is about learning and learning about yourself you get this cool new chance to go for a run, dance in your kitchen, or play tag on the playground with your kids, and see how it feels. Didn’t hate it? Cool. You just learned that maybe you don’t “hate exercise”.

My favorite result of this little mental switch is the freedom I am given to attempt new things. I have talked before about being afraid to try new things for fear of failing. While some of that stemmed from a heavy value on what others thought of me, an equally significant part was my thought that if I couldn’t be great at something it simply wasn’t worth the risk of starting. It sounds silly, but I know of so many people who feel the same way, and I see it constantly in the people with whom I interact.
This life is about learning, about accumulating new experiences and bits of insight. It’s about making the most of every day and taking part in all the opportunities we’re given. You can’t do that if you aren’t willing to try new things, afraid of what others will think if you fail, or ashamed when you don’t master something in your first attempt. When living life is an educational experience you are free to experience things as a beginner, with timidity, lacking skills, needing help and information. You give yourself freedom to learn without pressure to be an instant success.

This grand, beautiful journey is a long and winding one, chock full of things to experience and see and enjoy and savor. Wouldn’t it be amazing to spend it learning all we can and living it for all its worth?

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