by Jane Ann Covington
Recently I had a client ask me, “When Do Adults Stop Learning?“.
The good news is that for most of us the answer is NEVER! Learning may require a bit more exposure, concentration and practice as we age, but we can and will continue to learn throughout our lifetime. Listen, be interested, ask questions when you don’t understand, locate where you can find the information you want to know, and decide to learn!
The rest of the good news as we age is that we can use our history (or personal data bank) to draw upon, and our ingenuity to find or locate information, and by merely asking for help from those in the know who are good at sharing information in a way that is understandable to you.
If you find that you do not understand something, then you probably just need to back up and learn more fundamental information before you can go to the more complex. An example: You have to learn your multiplication tables before you can learn a more complex skill, like division in math.
And, more good news is that no matter what we learned or didn’t learn, or came to believe in the past, consciously or subconsciously, we can always learn something else to replace it, if it’s no longer helpful to us, and if we need to have greater understanding of something. You may need an expert to help you navigate through this, however, and that’s normal.
Science has revealed that our environment plays a far greater role in our ability to access our unique brilliance and continued learning than genetics does. Genetics only accounts for about 8% of who we are, including our mental capacity.
Another critical factor for our ability to learn is who is teaching us? Looking back on it, most of us didn’t have the greatest teachers in the world for our particular style of learning. Hopefully, you experienced a few teachers along the way that could teach in a way that helped your understanding grow. So having a good teacher that works for you is most helpful!
In any given moment we are exposed to and are unconsciously taking in around 400,000 bits of information. Our conscious mind can only be aware of about 2000 bits in any given moment. Most of what we know, we learned unconsciously. In fact, more than 99% of what we know we learned unconsciously, but we can do better and learn more at any age.
How do we learn? Besides unconsciously, we learn by studying, being taught, experience, our environment, and repeated exposure to new ideas, experiences, challenges and information. In order to really come to “know” something, however, it must be reinforced. I’ve said this many times, “Repetition is the mother of learning.”
In the end: Listen, be interested, ask questions when you don’t understand, study up on a subject (you don’t need to know everything and you never will…so give that up), and decide to learn! Start with the basics if that’s the level you find yourself. Take a course in something you are interested in. For instance, when my mother was in an Assisted Care Living situation, I went through the entire certification training to run a facility just like that. I never took the state test to be certified because that wasn’t my purpose, but I learned things that I would have never known to ask or expect! Go where the information is to the degree that you wish to learn it.
Stay tuned for next month’s topic: When Do We Begin Learning?