Love of learning

One of my top character strengths is love for learning. Learning has never been too difficult for me, although in the past I struggled with dry memorising of facts and dates. I needed to understand the causality of things to learn them properly. Before I took the VIA Character Strengths test I did not think much of it, but now I know that learning is actually quite important to me. It actually makes me happy. 

I was due to write this post on Thursday but it was the last day of my university course. I started it with my personal therapy, did a bit of work and then met my peer support friend to sum up the term. The last session was all about endings but also plans for the future. As I was talking about my plans people found me really structured and determined, some nodded wondering if maybe I should take studying a little bit easier. Even though I pointed out that exploring new questions and challenging myself intellectually is a pleasant and stimulating effort for me.  We still perceive learning as effort or a chore, it seems.

I think there is an assumption about learning – we are told that it has to be boring, mandatory and hard. We are also told that successful academics know a lot but we never talk about the actual learning process. We forget that the mandatory learning at school was actually good if we had a good teacher, it was the system and unkind and uninspiring teachers who killed our love for learning. We forget that in order to learn effectively it helps to be invested, excited and passionate about the subject – so of course, a lot of mandatory training might be boring. We forget that in order to learn we have to feel a certain level of challenge, put some effort into it, often fail and review how we could do things better. Failure is not stylish nowadays, of course. We are so failure-resistant that we don’t talk about it. We beat ourselves up instead of looking honestly at our actions and learning from the mistakes.  Falure is an important part of personal growth!

I am particularly hard on myself and I do not like making mistakes. Realising that love for learning is actually my strength really helped me. I have learned to accept my mistakes as a part of that process. I embraced the fact that I am an explorer at heart so every learning journey is about the voyage, not about the wrong turns, nor the destination. I have learned to let go of my old Catholic sense of guilt in failure and simply move on. No matter which way we go, we will always find something new, interesting and if embraced: enriching. 

This year I have completed a Certificate in Counselling. It was my third year of counselling studies and this one was really hard. I had Brexit and two bereavements to deal with. I had a lot of new discoveries across my private life, work, studies and my active listening practice. I was also in therapy. So it feels like after months of really intense voyages I have arrived at a quiet bay and I am starting to take stock. I am starting to talk to my friends about my adventures and new discoveries – most of which in this case are all about myself and my relationship with people. It’s fascinating and really important in this line of work. It is also fun. As hard as it sounds, counselling studies really teach people to work with our own selves at a deeper level. It’s a never ending journey. Often we are joined by new friends and I am glad to have two new people in my life now that’s to this course. Juggling work, voluntary jobs, family, company and university was to be honest bonkers, but it showed me just how much can be done in a week! I did not feel the effort of this journey as daunting as it could have been because I simply like the process of learning. 

Going to university is something unique for me now, but there are many ways to study in the new connected world, so for my list today here are my favourite ways of using social web and Internet in general to learn. Enjoy and let me know how you use the web for learning. 

  • Online courses – I often sign up for courses on Coursera, MIT and FutureLearn but recently I have also studied over at Oxford University. Some courses are paid, but affordable and you can save all your training materials for later. 
  • Good newsletters – I could not imagine my week without Brainpickings or Narratively stories, but there is so much more out there!
  • Amazon books – I cannot live without books so I spend too much money on them, actually. The great thing about ebooks is the accessibility but also additional highlights (which you can then download with Evernote)
  • Audible – audiobooks are so handy on a day when I cannot look at screens or during longer trips. What I love about Audible is their trend to ask authors to read books. Listening to Michelle Obama reading her autobiography is a sublime experience.
  • Wikipedia – I know it sounds really basic, but my parents had the full Encyclopaedia Britannica in their living room so I grew up with the idea of browsing through it and so I love the online dictionaries and definitions on Wikipedia (especially when I need to catch up on lives of psychologists or learn more about psychological concepts). 
  • Twitter – this is still the most open network where we can follow scientists but also see their inspirations so expanding our sources is way easier than elsewhere 
  • Pinterest – if I look for ideas or specific tips I use Pinterest because their good image recognition leads to fast similar results but it is also open enough to come across alternative solutions. I guess this is a space more used for practical tips (so I use it for gardening) but sometimes you can come across good academic articles and visuals too.
  • Podcasts – again easy to use and easy to follow, what I like about podcasts is the intimacy of connection with the author and their unique styles
  • YouTube premium – it’s my new channel and I think they need to work on their paid value but I like learning from YouTube documentaries and find older movies there too so using it without adverts is a real treat.
  • Medium and personal blogs – regardless of social media conversations, personal blogs still are my preferred destination. They are our personal spaces so we learn a lot about each other there. I love catching up with friends this way.

All the above channels seem basic. However, when interconnected you can jump between a tweet, bio to a blog than to a book on Amazon and to Wiki page on the topic. Finally, you can find a content summary in a good visual on Pinterest. You just need to be open, flexible and curious. I know the above might sounds obvious but I hope it shows just how easy it is to practice love for learning online. What have I missed? Let me know. 

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