Learning starts well before you ever enter school. From the moment you first open your eyes, you are constantly observing, assessing, implementing. Your understanding compounds with time. And your earliest experiences help to form the foundation that is your life.
From the way you shower to how you solve problems.
That said, some lessons are easier to come by than others. Some get hammered into your brain through years of formal education. Others you pick up from your parents, coworkers, or friends. Unfortunately, there are three lessons that are particularly easy to learn that do nothing but limit you.
Recognize them in your life. Work to overcome them. In doing so, you will cultivate a more joy-filled, fulfilling existence for yourself.
How do you wipe?
You’re in the bathroom. You’re done doing what you need to do. So you grab some toilet paper and wipe. But which way? Do you go front to back? Back to front? Do you go from behind? Over the top? Do you remain seated? Do you power squat?
Everyone does it differently. Which is strange considering we all do it.
Imagine seeing everyone in a restaurant using a fork in a dissimilar way. It would be off-putting. But you would never see that. Why? Because you have exposure. From the first meal you have at the big kid’s table, you are aware of how others use a fork. You see people hold them, what they do with them, how they use them.
You follow their lead and adopt a similar behavior.
But that doesn’t happen in the bathroom. Because as soon as you’re done being potty-trained, you’re on your own. Each bathroom experience is entirely on you. You don’t get exposure to other ways of doing it. Likewise, the person who trained you to use the bathroom probably experienced something similar. They taught you their weird way, and you’ll teach the next person your weird way. With no improvement or iteration between.
And so, like your genes, how you wipe will be passed down from generation to generation.
The skill: believing your way is right; that you have nothing left to learn from others.
The way to overcome it: to get better at anything, you need exposure. You need to see how others do what they do, why they do it, and why their way is better than yours. It requires humility and intention on your part. It’s worth it if you want to improve though.
Just be sure to ask for permission before going in the bathroom with them.
My eighth-grade reading score
I only needed a handful of points. To get them, all I had to do was read one more book, answer a few questions, and boom: I get an A.
I got a B that trimester.
Not only did I not read that one book, I actively fought my mom on having to read it. She still gives me grief for that some 15+ years later. Even more so because I’m such an avid reader today. On average, I complete one book a week. I love reading. But I’m pretty sure if I had to take a test to prove what I’ve read, I wouldn’t pass.
School teaches you to memorize, not apply.
If you ask me to list the characters’ names and the many themes of Atlas Shrugged, I would have no idea. But if you ask me what I learned from the novel, what changes I made to my life since finishing it, you’d better buckle up. Because I’ll chat your ear off.
We learn from a young age that memorization is ideal. But unless you’re on a game show as an adult, it’s much better to understand and apply the information in a useful way.
The skill: prioritizing memorization over application.
The way to overcome it: take it easy on the flashcards. Instead of concerning yourself with themes and plot points, consider what lessons you’ve gained from the story. Then, apply those lessons to your life.
Stir the pot
You can’t wait to share the news. You burst in through the door and are delighted to see your roommate sitting on the couch. “You’ll never believe what I overheard Zayn say today!” you shout with delight. Your roommate beams and urges you to spill the tea.
Gossip is a common activity. Some speculate that its origins date back to tribal times. That gossip was a tool for keeping tabs on one’s group. It was a matter of safety.
Today, we gossip for fun.
However, inherent in gossip is judgment. As in, you feel above the person you are gossiping about. And that’s problematic for many reasons. For one thing, you aren’t accepting the person as they are. For another, you are unconsciously creating tension between yourself and that individual. It’s a lose-lose.
On a trip once, I made a pointed comment to a friend about his frequent smoking. He got defensive and lashed out at me. I immediately apologized for upsetting him and tried to smooth things over. Even so, it was awkward for some time after.
I was judgmental and he didn’t like it. Rightfully so.
The truth of the matter isn’t that smoking is good or bad. My friend smokes. That is the truth. That is the reality. And in my judging him, I was fighting against reality. I was saying, this is how reality should be, you shouldn’t smoke. But if he shouldn’t smoke, then he wouldn’t. That’s his business. I needed to accept him as he was. And because I didn’t, there was tension between the two of us.
However, had I accepted him and the situation, as difficult as it may have been, our discomfort would have quickly subsided. In its place would have been understanding, love, and connection.
The skill: judging yourself and others is commonplace and entertaining.
The way to overcome it: it takes practice. And I’m still working on it. I recommend these two books to help: The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Carlton Abrams and Loving What Is by Byron Katie.
Learning starts well before you ever enter school. Some lessons are easier to come by than others. And that’s not always for the better. For your reference once more, three lessons that are easy to learn but ultimately end up limiting you are:
- Not learning from others.
- Prioritizing memorization.
- Being judgmental.