Do you recognise yourself in that old photo? How learning changes who we are.

I saw a photo this morning of two old university friends. Funny how i easily recognised them, although tinged with the realisation that they were all grown up. They looked like adults, complete with children! When you grow older alongside your friends, you don’t notice the transition, but when you see someone after a long time, it’s stark!

Of course, the changes aren’t just on the outside, we change in ourselves too. Experience, both bitter and sweet, the places we live, the friends we make, the work we do, the things that we study, all of these change us in so many ways.

I guess a post around introspection is bound to be more philosophical than usual, but the thing that strikes me is that both of these ‘ageing’ processes are, to some extent, within our control. No, i don’t mean that you can paint a picture and stick in in the attic like Dorian Gray, but rather that we do things that influence both processes. People readily sign up for the gym, go for walks or do a hundred lengths of the pool in a bid to remain fit and healthy, but not all of us take such good care of our intellectual ageing process.

In some ways, it’s often left to chance. For the majority of people, completing school or a degree is the last formal or deliberate structured education that they complete. Most subsequent study is work related and often of much shorter duration.

But it doesn’t need to be so. It’s all very well to train for a marathon, or to study for your IFA exams, but sometimes learning can be much more fluid than that. Instead of training for something specific, be it twenty six gruelling miles or how to sell a pension, we can train just for the sake of it. Instead of doing a course on Finance, do something that you are passionate about, or simply curious about.

If you like the sound of coaching, why not study something related to this? It doesn’t need to be ‘worthwhile’, it might just be interesting.

The process of studying always changes us in two ways: some intended and foreseen, others unexpected and surprising. The very process of actively apportioning some of your time to a specific activity can be, of itself, liberating. My own experience of setting aside an hour a day for writing has changed me in ways that i still don’t fully understand, but it certainly has changed me. The way i think about things, the way i write about things. I feel that i understand words better!

Learning changes how we think about our past, how we deal with our present and how we approach our future. It changes how we think within ourselves and how we interact with others.

I rarely make a call to arms, but why not make an exception this once. Why not think about what you’ve learnt over the last five years. How much has been related to work, how much have you enjoyed, what have you learnt and what would you learn if you could study anything in the world? How would this change you? Now go and do something about it!

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Change, Learning, Reflection, Study, Teaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Do you recognise yourself in that old photo? How learning changes who we are.

  1. maturestudenthanginginthere says:

    Interesting post Julian. Having returned to study in my mid 40′s with the Open University I can certainly say it has been a positive experience and my learning has allowed me to connect with the world in a different and more diverse way. I suspect that I will still be hooked on this learning game well into retirement – there are, after all, worse things I could be doing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Jacqueline

  2. Pingback: Relics of greatness: agility and learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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