11. Proud Enough to Learn

Good morning and welcome to your eleventh meditation. How many times have you told yourself you’d like to learn another language, or take up piano? Most of us fantasize about learning new skills, yet never seem to get around to doing it. Many of us start, but feel discouraged when it doesn’t come easily. We rationalize that it’s too late. That maybe we could have been good if we had started when we were young, but what’s the use now?  That only children are truly capable of learning new skills. But consider for a moment three important differences between how children learn and how adults learn. The first is time. Adults often struggle to fit new things into our already busy schedules. And even if we do fit a new activity in here and there, it can be difficult to integrate into our already-established routine. Children, on the other hand, go to school every day for many of the new skills they learn. And their schedules tend to be more malleable than ours so that if they really want to learn something new, they are perfectly willing to clear all other appointments to do so. Second, children are happy to learn very simple bits of information. They are proud of small successes and that makes the learning process fun and gratifying for them. Adults tend to be less satisfied with tiny achievements. Rather we too often expect ourselves to be really good at a new skill after a really short learning period and so set ourselves up for discouragement and failure. And these unrealistic expectations lead to the third, and perhaps most important, main difference between how adults and children learn: Inhibition. Since adults tend to feel embarrassed by doing something badly we often shy away from making the mistakes necessary to improve. We focus on what we’re doing wrong and feel discouraged. We tell ourselves and others that we’re dabbling at this new skill. We say that we’re not any good. Now look at children learning something new. They completely butcher it and they don’t care one bit. More likely they’re proud of what they’ve done. Because they acknowledge that they’ve done something that they have never done before. When a child paints they are not comparing their painting to the whole history of art. They’ve never seen any of it so why would they care? They are simply, purely excited to be learning a new skill. So if you’re learning a new language, don’t compare your skill level to native speakers of that language. They have been practising that skill every day, all day for years. And don’t compare yourself to another learner either. Everyone learns differently and what’s important is that, like the child, you are proud of every new thing you learn! This pride will ensure that you enjoy the learning process and will keep you from ever wanting to quit. It’s never too late to learn. So whatever you are learning, keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

When children learn a new language it is usually either because they are going to a school where that language is spoken, or because all their social connections are being developed in that language, or both. Imagine if you could attend full time elementary school where every subject was taught in the new language that you were learning. Or imagine if all of your friends all of a sudden didn’t speak English, but only spoke the new language. Without a doubt you would learn that language. Adults tend to struggle to dedicate this much time to learning a new skill amid their already busy lives and often seek friendships with those who already speak their native language. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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