The other day I was talking to my neighbor about general things you usually talk to your neighbor about. (Usually the other neighbors!) The weather, how the temperature is rising and becoming more humid, the days getting longer, how hard it is to sleep in with the light of the sun blazing into your bedroom earlier and earlier. She was telling me about this class she’d been taking recently at the learning annex downtown. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to the learning annex, I’m not sure how they operate or how many of them there are, but they are a great way to learn new things. Many times they are set up in conjunction with a local community college. I’ve taken classes in Tai Chi, Piano, Assertiveness as well as many other interesting subjects. One of the great things about them is they are fairly inexpensive, and are usually held in the evenings so you can easily work them into your schedule.
We started talking about the benefits of continuous learning, and how the smartest people in the world are the people that make a decision to always be learning something. People can, for instance, learn pretty much anything at any stage in life. There is a general misconception that we can really only learn things when we are really young, say under five years old. You don’t have to go very far to find somebody to tell you that you can’t learn as easily as you can when you were younger. But then again, you don’t have to go very far to find somebody who will happily tell you that you can’t do whatever it is you want to do. It seems that some people spend all their energy trying to find as many reasons as they can why something is not possible.
You may already have started to become aware of the times in your life when you’ve been able to really learn something new. And I donâ€™t know if you’ve noticed, but the greatest things you learn are the things that sneak up on you, and take you by surprise. It’s a sad fact that many people spend their whole lives avoiding the unfamiliar, effectively shutting themselves off from future learnings and experiences. I don’t know exactly some of us got into that trap, but when you can find a way to get around it, you will find that the world is a lot more forgiving than you think. I’m wondering if most of the things that we think we are afraid of are really just things that we make up in our minds. How does it feel when you face something you are afraid of, only to discover that simply by facing it, the fear completely disappears, and all you are left with is energy and excitement?
Maybe you haven’t gotten around to doing this consciously yet, but I’m sure you can find some opportunities to take care of this sooner or later. You won’t have to go very far to find an opportunity. A great place to start is at a public speaking club like toastmasters. Because almost everyone is deathly afraid of public speaking it is a great place to realize that those fears are completely imaginary. It’s not like some hungry tiger who just escaped from the circus is going to jump out from behind a potted plant during your speech and eat you, although I admit that might make for an interesting news story.
Fear is probably one of the reasons many people don’t take classes at the learning annex or at their local community college. Of course people won’t come right out and say “I’m afraid,” they usually come up with excuses like they are too busy or something. When you realize that everybody else that takes those classes are just like you, you can really enjoy discovering how wonderful it is to embark on a journey of life long learning. What happens when you take something you’d like to learn, but up to now have coming up with excuses for not learning it, and imagine yourself five years in the future having studied it as a hobby for the last five years? How does it feel to have developed such an advanced skill set by only approaching it as hobby? How much better is your life? How many other things can you imagine yourself doing, now? How does that feel?