It’s a new day. You get up, get out of bed (begrudgingly), wash up, maybe grab some breakfast, then sit at your computer and begin to surf the web.
It’s your day off. You want to rest, relax, hang out, chill, play a game, watch a movie, you know, all the things normal people typically do when they have a free day.
Because you’re simply too “tired” to do much of anything else.
“Ah, yeah, had a long work week, let’s spend this day just hanging…I’ll do that personal project, uh, later.”
It’s been a bit over a month since I’ve graduated college and you know what I’ve come to realize?
That the education system does an awful job at teaching us how to care about learning and teaching for ourselves.
Maybe I’m just terribly unmotivated, maybe I’m completely wrong, but have you ever thought of (if you’re not in school), how it’s so easy to excuse not working on learning new skills you’re actually interested in simply because you’re too “tired” or “busy”. I mean think about it. If you’re out of school, you have a vast world of knowledge to pick from, to learn from. No more assignments, no more barriers, or rubrics. YOU get to choose to learn what you’re interested in. Let me say that again, you get to choose what you learn.
For years, the education system has forced us to learn a variety of things that we may have no interest in at all. That 10-page research paper. That ridiculous group project. That “career building” seminar (insert eyeroll here). But the thing is you’re still learning. Maybe not willingly, but through those practices and experiences, you start to build a little box of possibly usable life tools. Some are duller than others. Most are only usable in one or two situations. And some are just outright broken. But they’re tools, nonetheless.
So now you’re out of school. You’re your own boss, your own teacher. But, I may very well laugh right in your face if you tell me you actually spend your free days searching the web to teach yourself new things. Like taking a short online class. Learning a new little skill, and actually applying it.
Not saying people don’t actually go seek out things they’re interested in and take in new information, I’m more so commenting on the idea that we don’t really go out of our way to learn things that actually build into our character. Sure we can read an article about a new scientific breakthrough, or even look up a quick tutorial on how to bake a cake, but does that really stick with us? (I mean, school isn’t great in that regard either, I still don’t remember a single thing from my honors chemistry class…let alone how to find “x” on a triangle).
Do we ever really push ourselves to learn something deeply enough by our own volition to actually make a change in ourselves?
Because school didn’t teach me how to teach myself. It taught me how to listen to orders and how to turn in assignments on time (which was all for that fancy little grade that validated my work). But what it failed to teach me was one of the most important things: To seek valuable knowledge and skills for myself; to learn how to motivate myself, to want to learn more about things that can make me a better person because I want to learn them.
But I’m at a bit of loss. Because really, being your own motivator, your own teacher, is one of the most difficult things there is, because there’s no structure. No foundation. No due date hovering over your head, no one saying that your newly acquired skills or knowledge are actually meaningful, no grades that actually measure your character.
So by God, how am I expected to teach myself? For example, I love psychology. I excelled in all my classes in school, actively would ask questions, and even write mental health articles for my job now. Thing is, if you sit me down, and ask me if I want to read this new psychology research article to learn about a new function in the brain, or sit and watch my favorite TV show with my favorite snack, I’m probably going to pick the TV option.
But WHY damn it! Once we’re our own boss, why is it so painfully hard to stay motivated? To stay on top of things? To resist the constant need to “rest”, because daily life and work are just exhausting enough? Why take the time to sit down and learn this new program that could help my future, or read new scientific research that could give me insight on how people think, when I can just do nothing.
I’m educated already. I don’t need to learn anything else. I mean sure, I finished a good chunk of my assignments simply to get them done and do well, but now that I have the ability to teach myself, why would I? No one is telling me that me learning is ‘good’. No one is giving me a gold star. So why bother?
Why didn’t school teach me how to care about learning within life rather than within one confined setting? Why didn’t school teach us all to want to learn, rather than present it as a chore that all of us were so ready to escape. Is that why I’m unable to get that “push” to teach myself new things? Is that why so many people settle into jobs that are easy, or pay them well, because why bother with anything else?
Why bother if you’re comfortable, right? Learning is tough, risky, and sometimes, quite uncomfortable.
Now, I know that people still get out there and do things. We ain’t all locked up in our rooms crunching on Hot Cheetos and watching Ash Vs. Evil Dead like me (even though that is my dream day off, any day). There are people who are part of amazing organizations that work to help others, there are our teachers, and our artists, and our scientists – there’s some really awesome, super motivated individuals in this world.
And I hope to be one of them someday.
But really, I hope that the everyday person can learn to thirst for knowledge and actually seek it. I don’t want it just to be easy or required, or mandated. I want to learn for me because I can and should. Not for someone to tell me I did well, or for a grade, or for anyone else but myself. I want to learn to appreciate learning for me, just as I want to learn to celebrate my own personal successes, and to share them with others, thus inspiring them to do the same.
A college degree shouldn’t mark the end of our learning experience. Whether you have an associates or a PhD, learning to motivate yourself in what you want in your life is so so so important.
Because what’s the point of life if you’re not constantly learning? Not constantly growing? What’s the point in remaining stagnant and comfortable in your own intellect when you have a world in front of you, just waiting for you to take it? (And the cool thing is, you can take whatever part of it you want!)
Sure, you may grow in your job, you may get promoted, you may actually feel motivated (hopefully by yourself and not just your boss), you may feel you know all you need to know within your career, and if that makes you happy, then that’s great.
But don’t forget to learn for you. Go out there. Seek knowledge. Look up information on something you’re curious about. Write down new things to remember them. Practice what you’ve learned. Get excited. Tell other people about it. Write about it, do art about it, sing about it, teach yourself, then teach someone else. There’s no rules. Just you and your everlasting potential to be something quite outstanding.
So get out there and be your own best teacher.
(…and I’ll be over here watching TV and eating cheetos! Cheers!)
What motivates you? Let me know in the comments below!
With everlasting encouragement,