“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
– Mahatma Ghandi
Learning is a concept, most often associated with the younger generation. From a very early age, children are encouraged to explore their environment and satiate their curiosities about life. Even as children grow into adolescents, there is a great deal of societal pressure to keep learning as though this is the particular ingredient for a successful life. Although everybody is born with an innate curiosity about the world around them, this desire to learn more can sometimes dwindle with the pressures to succeed academically. Learning quickly devolves from being inspired and curious, to twiddling your thumbs, bored in another uninspiring lesson that can often seem completely irrelevant. The message this sends to most young people, entering the world of work is that learning is a chore, whose sole purpose is to direct them towards a profession. However, if we choose to see learning, not as a means to an end, but as a way to satisfy our natural curiosity, the process can be much more inspiring.
For adults, learning a new skill can not only be an enjoyable experience, but beneficial to cognitive functioning in the long term. Learning a new skill can be artistic, such as drawing, painting, creative writing, sculpting, pottery, mosaic amongst many other crafts. Alternatively, there are various other skills, including learning a new language, coding, computer programming, interior design/decorating, carpentry etc. All of these skills can challenge, serve a purpose and alter the direction of your life. What can initially start out as an interest can readily evolve into a second career or business.
Despite the range of interests out there, it’s all too common that people ‘put off’ their interests. The main cause of procrastination is fear. The usual fears that people have before starting a skill include ‘thinking that they’ve left it too late’. Perhaps it’s your dream to learn how to paint a beautiful masterpiece, but you’re current ability is the same as it was when you were 8 or 9 years old. The fear is that you’ve left this skill for too long and now, there’s no possible way that you could ever draw as well as some of the famous artists. Although it’s true that learning a skill will take a lot of time and practise, the end result will be worth taking the time to improve your skill. Fear can prevent you from beginning a skill that could have the most amazing results, usually because of the time you believe it will take to get there. As Julia Cameron said, in the ‘The Artist’s Way, when she was questioned by somebody who was concerned about how old they would be when they eventually would have learned to play the piano, she replied, ‘the same age as you will be if you don’t.’
Although age might be a factor in preventing people to learn new skills as they grow older, due to the fact that they might fear not seeing their skill come to fruition. It’s true that age creeps up regardless, but learning a skill can be mentally and socially stimulating, with evidence to suggest that it can even prolong life.