by Deborah Noel
originally published in the 2015 Winter Issue
As the late American journalist, Christopher Morley, once said “There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning and yearning”. If you will note, he put “learning” first because without learning the other two seem, well, rather shallow. We all know of people who earn and do not appear to be learned (should I say… Super Models? Reality TV stars? Anyone who passes us in the queue of life. ) and we certainly know that yearning may precede the learning (Gambling addictions, credit lines and dare I say it…, broken hearts.). We often think of learning as a journey to a destination. When I graduate college I can be a (insert profession). When I finish this course I can make (insert dollar amount). However, learning can be both the journey and the destination. There are no rules saying that learning has to have a defined purpose. The advantages to learning go far beyond advancing one’s career.
Some of these include the following: Learning can help us develop our natural abilities. Sometimes we don’t realize our talents until we allow ourselves the opportunity to explore. I have a co-worker who started taking piano lessons at the age of 50 for no other reason than he had an interest in the piano teacher. He soon discovered that he wasn’t that interested in the teacher but he turned out to have a natural talent in music.
Learning opens our minds. Taking a class in philosophy may not increase your salary but it can sharpen your debating skills. Courses in the humanities allow for free exchange of ideas and viewpoints. Listening to or taking part in stimulating discussions allows us to see the other side of an issue.
The more you learn the more you want to learn. Learning creates a curious, hungry mind. The more you discover about history, current events, politics, or the culture of other countries, the more you will want to learn.
Learning helps us adapt to change. The world is in a state of constant flux. As we get older we may believe it is difficult to keep up with changes, especially if technology is involved. Trying something new takes away the “mystery” and opens us up to adapting.
Learning increases our social circle. I recently took a Malaysian Cooking class, not necessarily to become a better cook, but to meet more people in my community who shared my “adventurous” taste in cuisine. Whatever your reason for doing so, taking classes is a great way to meet people.
Learning is healthy. Whether it is mastering a new cuisine, learning to play the piano or just being able to use a computer, most learners report an increased sense of selfesteem. Whether your learning is self-directed or in a classroom setting, exercising your brain is as important as exercising your muscles! Studies are now showing that continuing to learn as you age can reduce incidents of depression and increase cognitive functioning.
There are many ways to add learning to your life. Most universities offer free (noncredit) classes online. Throughout Toronto and the GTA school boards such as the TDSB offer community classes in everything from computer basics to genealogy. Check them out!
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