“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” This advice is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Both parts are profound, but today I want to focus on learning.
I’ve always loved learning new things and just because I’ve reached a certain age doesn’t mean I’m ready to stop. I’m with Mahatma Gandhi on this one!
So when I decided to leave my job as a lawyer I thought carefully about what I wanted to do that would be challenging and would engage my passion. Friends and family (with honourable exceptions) thought I was crazy when I signed up for a beginners course in dog grooming at Merrist Wood College. I had no real expectations of liking it, let alone being good at it or taking it any further.
Dog grooming is totally unlike anything I’ve done before. I love dogs, but it’s more than 40 years since I shared my life with one. So getting up close and personal with a whole bunch of them – from puppies to OAPs, tiny to scarily large – and starting to acquire the multiple skills a dog groomer needs, has been a mammoth challenge.
I had some hairy moments, literally and metaphorically! Perhaps the worst was when I shaved a Cockapoo’s leg because I hadn’t noticed the tutor had switched the blade on the clipper… I felt stupid and demoralised – and the owner made quite a fuss about it too. But at some level I knew it could have been much worse, so I was determined to learn from my mistake and put the negative feelings behind me.
I still don’t know if I’m going to be good at dog grooming, or if I’ll ever practise as a groomer, but I’ve signed up for the next level to give myself a chance to find out.
Learning challenges you. It keeps your mind active, expands your horizons and helps you keep growing as a person. When you feel bogged down in the quicksand of work, learning gives you a new perspective and opens up new possibilities.
Moreover, if I look back on the happiest times of my life, I realise that periods of intensive learning are up there with the best. The sense of purpose you get from working towards mastery of new knowledge or skills, the bond you forge with people on the journey with you, the feeling of accomplishment as you see the progress which comes from hard work and application – these produce a more fulfilling and meaningful happiness than mere pleasures can provide.
If you haven’t yet dipped your toe in the waters of lifelong learning, why not give some thought to what you would enjoy finding out more about, explore the possibilities and start learning? At the very least it will give you a new focus and help put your work in perspective. Or it could be the beginning of a new life.
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