Learning Or Unlearning?

by Lily White
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Learning is either a passive or active process, but unlearning must be and can only be an active process. But first a few important questions.

What if you are learning stuff you don’t need, will never use or is a waste of time and resources? What if you are learning stuff that is wrong or just really temporary? What if you are not learning what is or could be the most valuable lessons of your life as you move forward? What if some of your prejudices, opinions, history, attitudes – whatever – are preventing you from learning what you need to learn to be happy, successful or contented?

Stupid questions? I don’t think so.

One more – do you need to unlearn some stuff to finally achieve the dreams, success, happiness or goals that you want to be part of your future?

What do I mean by unlearning? Two quick and probably dumb examples but they will make it clear what I am talking about.

The Earth is flat. Well, that’s what everyone thought for a long time. Then they had to unlearn that as the old information was proven to be wrong. So, unlearning old or learning new – it’s really a moot point, what matters is that old information was replaced with new stuff.

Second example. When I was in college (long, long time ago) in a pre-med program one of my professors at the start of the first class said the following. “All of what I am going to cover during this semester will most likely be untrue by the end of the semester but if you want to pass the course you better learn it, so you can pass the exam and then just forget it all.”

Wow, what a valuable lesson and not just for that three-month course.

A quick fact (I was once told by a well-respected medical, psychological and scientific expert many years ago – who will remain anonymous – but maybe it wasn’t a fact, but just his/her opinion based on his or her learning, experience, agendas or views.

“Everything we will ever need to know in life to achieve happiness, success, inner peace etc. is already stored in your sub-conscious and was put in your mind before you were born.”

If this is true, I don’t ever have to read another book, attend another seminar, take another class or learn another lesson. I already have it all to achieve what I want and am capable of in life.

Trust me, some things we have all learned are stupid, untrue and useless and the key to our success etc. may be to let go of some of this crap and replace it with valuable, current and needed wisdom and stop relying on outdated examples, experience, teaching etc. Don’t believe me? The oldest part of the human brain (the reptilian brain) is over 25 million years old and it is still the default mechanism for most people when it comes to attitudes, behaviors, decisions, choices etc. So, we all need to unlearn something or a lot of things or what I like to refer to as “replacement learning” if we want to achieve the goals, dreams etc. we desire.

I’ll keep these short.

What is unlearning?

Think of unlearning as upgrading the software in your computer or iPad. The older version of the software works but doesn’t give you all of the benefits, potential, and advantages of the newer version. Yes, you could keep using the older one but what would be the cost? Loss of value? Wasted time or resources? We all, let me repeat, we all have information in our minds that is sabotaging some area of our life, career or relationships and until we upgrade to new information – we will continue to experience the same outcomes, status quo, and results.

What do we need to unlearn?

This is a book folks so let me see if I can do it in a few short sentences. We need to unlearn stuff (information) that is not true, is invalid, is not appropriate or is useful for our current and future life like – prejudices, opinions, facts, beliefs, experiences that we were exposed to, taught or persuaded by the people in our lives from day one and every day since.

What gets in our way of unlearning?

This one is simple – the stuff we have learned – see above. Think about it.

What do you need to unlearn?

This is the work that only you can do and believe me it isn’t easy, fast or painless. But in the end, it is well worth it if you can achieve it – the unlearning.

How do we unlearn?

Let me give you just 4 approaches (but, yes, there are many others).

1) Start spending some quality time in retrospect, revisiting your past experiences, teachers (this includes parents, siblings etc.). In other words, start asking yourself a lot of serious questions. For example – what’s working in your life and why? What’s not working in your life and why not?

2) Start exposing yourself to new and different people, circumstances, learning etc. and pay close attention as to how you feel, think, behave when you are around them or it.

3) Start a serious “I want to know” journal and write in it every day. What? Anything and everything that makes you happy, sad, angry, fearful, annoyed, nervous – get it – everything.

4) Hire a coach – not a superficial one (there are thousands of them out there and most of them need to hire a coach more than they have a right to be a coach.) I’ll leave it with that.

If you want change in your life I will guarantee that something in your life needs to change. The questions are – do you know what you want to change? Do you know what to change to get there? Are you willing to do the work to achieve the changes you say you want?

Tough questions? That my friend is where the whole process of unlearning begins – the willingness to face the tough issues, questions, changes necessary.



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