When we are young we are poked and prodded towards education. We fight and whine and cry as our parents make us go to that dreaded place known as “school.” We count the days until summer vacation when we can once again be free and happy. We long for a time when school is no longer our burden to bear.
Once we finally get out though, something magical and frightening happens: Those pokes and prods happen less and less, leaving us masters of our own educational fate.
The harsh reality is that if you relied on those pokes and prods to keep you progressing you will find your continued growth after schooling extremely lacking. More than likely you will find yourself stuck in a deep rut one day wondering where it all went wrong.
You are fully responsible for your own improvement and it’s time to bear that burden.
This article could be a letter I’m writing to myself.
I, like a lot of people, have a tendency to coast along once I get comfortable in a setting. It’s not too big of a deal, a lot of personal growth happens in a nurturing, stable environment.
But only if that environment is also challenging you.
We can’t get so comfortable that we “fall asleep,” so to speak, on over-arching goals we may be pursuing. Let’s say I get a nice new job, move into a good place, and my finances are in a good spot. These are good things, but if I get too complacent in my daily activities, a few years may pass where I didn’t grow too much as a person.
Those nice things I have now may slip through my fingers because I became stagnant, rigid, and now am unable to adapt to changes.
We are creatures of habit. We can run like a well-oiled machine when we need to. We can “sleep with our eyes open.” Schools keep you learning because they test you and challenge you to do better.
That same mentality must be applied all throughout our lives.
The Fight to Stay Relevant
Personal development and self-improvement are about continuing your growth as an individual so that you may lead a more fulfilling life, but development should not be thought of as going “above and beyond.” It should be considered to be the bare minimum.
The times change quickly and unless you have been keeping up to date you are more than likely going to fall to the wayside while someone else picks up the mantle. If you stick to old ways of doing things while technology continues to advance your methods, knowledge, and ways of solving problems will be useless and perhaps dangerous.
Continuing your education, even if it’s on your own, is a necessary aspect of what it means to be human.
Changes will occur whether we like them or not. Taking a pre-emptive approach through furthering study will soften the blow when it’s time to change our old habits.
Shrinking vs Growing
Given enough time doing a certain task, we will begin to develop habits in accordance with that task. If we began with a strong work ethic, paying attention to details, learning the right technique, and striving for excellence, those habits will stick with us.
Likewise, if we start by cutting corners and doing the bare minimum, those are habits that will stick over time.
However, whether or not you are an excellent worker now, it doesn’t matter if you don’t keep growing.
A star athlete who rests upon his laurels from his achievements in high school and is unwilling to change what has worked for him in the past may not make it far at the college level.
An expert mechanic will soon become outclassed by those willing to learn about newer vehicles and their newer technologies.
Whatever the endeavor, the inability to continually educate yourself and re-educate yourself is what will hinder your future the most, not your current skill level.
Shrinking, as opposed to growing, is when you have to build a wall between yourself and the world to keep your current way of living alive, because you have to ignore the changes that are happening in that world.
It is hiding away for the fear of change. Do it too much and you get left behind.
This doesn’t mean that just because something is an old way of solving a problem, it must be outdated. Shrinking in this sense is about the ignoring of good evidence that maybe you need to do a little more research into your method and the refusal to do so.
One must be willing to grow, and that means being willing to embrace new evidence and to sift through that evidence, reflecting upon it, and using sound judgment to determine it’s efficacy. Growth is not changing your ways just because the next new exciting study said to, but changing your ways when good reasoning implores you to.
Education after Education
Education is much more than school, but education takes a different form after school is over. It becomes personal to you, and your reasoning for either continuing education or not must be your own.
One must seek to become and stay well-rounded so that they may take a part in the larger society, but for the most part the things we seek to continue learning about are very much aligned with our own values. They involve our career, our family life, or our hobbies.
Classes may be sought out or it may be up to you to take some time each day to read a bit on the topic of your choosing.
The fact remains that there is no one pushing you any longer. Terrifying yet invigorating, this thought should get you excited for your future.
You are the catalyst of your continued growth and can set sail to any waters you find interesting. Most importantly, though, you must keep sailing with a distinct purpose, lest the tides and winds take you to places you have no desire to be.