There is no wagon…
This is my Matrix moment. You remember the scene right? Don’t try to bend the spoon, realise there is no spoon. So the relevance to learning and education? Well, I’m sure there’s some educational reason that you should watch the movie, but the point was about getting a big picture perspective. How often do we sweat the little stuff only to miss the big picture? So where does the wagon come in?
So you hear the expression regularly to fall off the wagon. What someone means is that they have gone astray, they’ve chosen a route and not been able to stick to it and therefore they’ve failed. It’s not only an admission of guilt, it’s almost a request for punishment.
A great example of this is the diet wagon. By the time we get to this point of the year, most of those great intentions about the New Year have fairly well failed. We place some realistic expectations on ourselves and, perhaps more relevantly here, we set ourselves up to fail. The main reason we fail is that we think failure isn’t an option. Unfortunately not only is failure an option, it’s pretty much a necessity. In fact, substitute the word fail for the word learn and you’ll probably get an idea of where I’m heading with this. Point is, it’s almost impossible to make anything worthwhile without getting a few things wrong along the way. Do we really expect that in making a change as big as what we eat or how we approach exercise that everything will always go as planned?
If we think about diet as this black and white we’re pretty much going to fail from day one. Even if we go months, eventually we’ll eat that piece of cake or chocolate that will, excusing the pun, tip the scales. We’re immediately flooded with guilt and the spiral begins to failure. Even well prescribed diets with points and calculations that allow you to have ‘treats’ are leading us to the same thinking — we can have a little of what we like, but the wagon is there and we better hang on or it’s all over. The answer in the dieting world is really about a lifestyle change. If you really don’t like the way you look or the way you feel then yes you may need to do something about it, but it’s not about fat, guilt, or wagons… it’s about health. The centre of the issue is your health. If you want to be healthy you need to have a healthy lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you have to always eat organic, you’re limited by points or that your life without yoga will lack meaning. It just means that overall you need to consider what you do and your health. The switch in thinking may seem small, but by adopting a sustainable healthy lifestyle your weight will adjust itself rather than you becoming obsessed with that. You also suddenly are focusing on the big picture. The cake is the small picture. The wagon is the small picture, there is no wagon to fall from, there is only adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Okay, glad I sorted your health out :) Now to learning. Unfortunately we often approach the diet style to learning too. I was in a discussion this week with smart people who were trying to learn something but they claimed to have fallen ‘off the wagon’ of knowledge. Firstly anyone who knows me will understand how much I hate the ‘pursuit of knowledge’ as an aim for life. Knowledge is relative and a moving beast, but that aside the journey to learn something is similar to our diet. If you think about it around rules based and failure not being an option then the high chance is that failure will be the end outcome. Think about having a healthy learning attitude as your lifestyle change. If you’re open to learning and try not to shut yourself off to ideas and learning opportunities then you will become a healthy learner. You don’t have to worry about ‘falling off the wagon’ because it doesn’t really exist. You don’t have to record every piece of knowledge in Evernote or your blog. If you don’t blog for a month, that’s fine providing your open to the healthy side of learning. If you can’t recall everything you ever learnt then that doesn’t make you a failing learner, remember our aim is not to be able to account for every calorie of learning, but to be healthy. If we’re healthy in our approach then the details like learning something will have the right environment to flourish.
So there you go in a nutshell. There is no wagon, because the wagon is the small detail that you don’t need to worry about. Worry about being healthy, in the learning world as in the diet world that’s about having the right attitude. There’s no need to punish yourself with unrealistic expectations, just live with the right attitude… and if you drop a few kilos along the way you’ll probably feel real good about yourself :)