The Learner’s Journey

I love this quote. If the essence of life is learning then I think this quote sums it all up quite nicely. Here’s what it means to me.

The capacity to learn is a gift.

In life, we all receive this gift. However, do you see your ability to learn as a gift that someone else gave you, like a Devine being? Or do you see it as a gift you gave — and continue to give — yourself? How you choose to acknowledge the existence of your capacity to learn influences your actual capacity to learn. Research on learning mindsets tells us that people who tend to see their ability to learn as within their own control versus people who see it as something pre-determined and pre-set are more likely to develop a lifelong love of learning. They are also more likely to develop the resilience necessary to overcome the struggles that can be associated with learning new and complex things.

The ability to learn is a skill.

If you have a growth mindset then you will appreciate this second part of Herbert’s quote. If we do have the power to be better at things then we currently are then there must be a set of skills that we can practice and subsequently use to help us learn more. There are all kinds of interpretations of what a learning skillset can incorporate. That might be study skills, work skills or, today, what gets called 21st century skills. A couple of my personal favourites right now are close reading and design thinking. We all continue to read after we leave school. To be able to truly read a book and get the most out of it requires more than just going from page to page with a highlighter in hand. We need the skill of annotation, which is more or less what close reading is. And we all have problems to solve. Sometimes these problems don’t have readily available or recognizable single answers. Maybe your goal isn’t to create a brand new innovation but the six-step design thinking process is still a very useful tool for the theory and practice of problem solving at school, at work and at home.

The willingness to learn is a choice.

This is the most important part of the whole quote. I’ve previously written about the notion of willingness to learn here, and here. I can have the right mindset and the right skillset but I still need the motivation to learn. Without a reason or a purpose to learn, nothing else matters.

So what do you do if you don’t think that you’re willing to learn? I find this whole process to be a circular one. To see this, go back to the first part of Herbert’s quote — the capacity to learn is a gift. If you can fully embrace that learning is a gift that you give yourself then you have immediately empowered yourself and that’s motivating. Having that motivation can fuel you and make you more open to learning skills that will help accelerate your learning potential. Using those learning skills can help you realize more of your potential. You see yourself growing and that’s motivating too. That motivation continues to stoke your belief that you can learn more as well as bolster your quest to hone your learning skillset. Willingness powers mindset and skillset. Mindset and skillset power willingness.