The Festival of Learning has been running through June, with Lifelong Learning Week taking place in Wales this week, encouraging all of us to have a go at something new.
Reflecting on the idea of lifelong learning, my starting point was very traditional – school. I was one of those rare people who loved being in the classroom and at university I would always sit at the front of lectures so I could ask questions and really be engaged. Even now when I attend training sessions and seminars, you’ll find me in the front row either hanging on the presenter’s words or challenging them because I want to know more.
Reading has also been part of my journey and I have always put aside time every day to read books that have helped me learn and develop. I regularly mix with people that I can learn from – coaches, mentors, colleagues and others that stretch me in my thinking. They keep me excited and challenged.
Unlike me, our son didn’t like much about school and didn’t attend very often. Eventually he jacked in his A Levels and went to work. When he did go to university, to study something he loved to do (which is key to our learning), he got a first class degree. And now, I see that he is constantly learning in all he does, whether with a mentor or watching YouTube “how to” videos.
When we are looking for people to train as facilitators we are very clear about one particular quality.
We are not looking for people who know something and then tell other people, we are looking for people who want to explore for themselves. We look for people that see life as a journey and are in constant enquiry about where they are and what else there is. As one of our facilitators said, it is the difference between being a trainer, where you tell people, and being a facilitator, where you travel with them. So our organisation is definitely built on the foundations of lifelong learning.
This foundation also has other learning elements. One of the features of the work we do is to be in awareness of what is going on for us. My own mindfulness practice often enables me to become aware of what is triggering me to be particularly grumpy or very happy. I’m constantly learning to listen to the feedback that my body gives me and that awareness supports me in the life I want to lead.
We were designed to learn, during our evolution it has helped to keep us alive. When we are not learning in any way we can stagnate and knowing we can learn stuff helps us if we feel stuck.
When we learn new skills we get a little serotonin boost, we feel better about ourselves and often more confident. It opens up new experiences for us and gives us choice and freedom.
However or whatever you choose to learn; a skill, information or a different way of doing something, making it part of your life will boost your self-esteem and bring a whole lot of joy to your life.
If you’d like to find out more about becoming a Fresh Air Fridays facilitator, you can take a look at our website and download an information booklet.