Door Number Four: Lifelong Learning

 “Learning never exhausts the mind.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

On the quest to find one’s fifty doors it is sometimes easy to forget about the importance of learning. This may be due to the prevalence of education in our lives from a young age. After all, many of us spend a great portion of our formative years in a classroom, whether we like it or not. Or it might be the sheer ease of access to information we now experience in today’s modern society. The ability to learn pretty much everything about anything is possible in a way never seen before in history. Whatever the cause, it is important we continue to increase our knowledge and skill sets throughout our life for a number of reasons.

Learning keeps the mind sharp. There is nothing more detrimental to one’s mental state than stagnation. Letting the mind rest on it laurels slows its ability to process new information. Just like the rest of our body, our mind needs exercise in order to stay at the top of its game. Take aptitude tests like the GRE . Those who take the test straight out of college tend to do better because their mind is still in learning mode, while those who have been out of academia for a while (like yours truly) struggle to retain some of the more basic information (damn you College Algebra) needed to do well on these exams. While I’m not saying we all need to spend countless hours every night cramming complex mathematical formulas into our head, it is important to continually seek out new learning opportunities throughout life.

Learning enables us to stay up to date with the latest techniques and trends in our chosen career. The great thing about the world is that it is constantly evolving. Processes are becoming more efficient. Technology is becoming more advanced. What was cutting edge 5 years ago, is almost obsolete today. This reality makes it even more important to pursue opportunities to expand one’s skills and understanding. Doctors who were trained even a few years ago would be nearly useless without constant training in the newest and safest ways to implement patient treatment.  No matter what your career is; be it a heart surgeon or a factory worker, there will always be new innovations that require further learning in order to stay on the top of the game.

Learning makes us more flexible. The more we know the more we can do. As we accumulate knowledge we learn things about ourselves and the world around us. This self-awareness better enables us to adapt when things don’t go quite our way. From the most minor of crises to the major catastrophes, having a vast breadth of knowledge increases the likely hood we will emerge from the situation victorious. Something as simple as a flat tire can become a calamity without the proper knowledge. Maybe some day your ability to bullseye womp rats in your T-16 back home will enable you to overthrow an oppressive empire bent on galactic domination. You never know.

Active learning is a door that must be opened in order to live a complete life. It’s ability to keep the mind sharp, is invaluable to keeping one flexible enough to face the ongoing challenges of life be it personal or professional. The great thing about learning is it is easier than ever before. It is as simple as turning on a computer or picking up a book from the library. The key is to actively take that step forward each day. After all, you only know what you know.

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