The purpose of this article is to try and present learning in a new light – to show that learning can be a powerful and enjoyable tool for life. I’m not talking about any specific area of learning – this isn’t an argument that you should become an expert on the mating cycles of sea-slugs.
This may well seem like a strange concept – you might ask “why on earth would I want to love learning?” Learning is, after all, school and university, endless classes, exams and stress. Isn’t it?
I’m not revealing any state secrets by saying our education system is orientated towards results and grades; we’ve all had teachers frustrated that they’ve got to teach to the test rather than the topic – history teachers skipping six hundred years from the Romans to the Normans, chemistry teachers telling you that yes, this diagram of an atom is wrong but you don’t need to know anymore.
The education system is a necessary series of hoops we all have to jump through – this is not an excuse to tell your teacher that you no longer need to attend class. The point of this article is to show you that there’s more to learning than 9-5 on a school day.
You might ask me, “but why do I want to learn?”
My answer would be another question – why wouldn’t you want to learn?
Learning builds your mind. It makes you curious and critical, gives you mental resilience against failure and set-backs. An active mind is less likely to fail in old age. It will make you more interesting, more likely to get a better job. There is not one aspect of your life that cannot be improved by learning. His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that “The first step of seeking happiness is learning.” [The Art of Happiness, pg 38]
And, equally as important, learning can be incredibly enjoyable. It’s not an easy pleasure. Learning is not momentary, like staying in bed or eating pizza. Those are short-term pleasures which often make you feel guilty once they’re over.
Learning is a slower pleasure, like exercise; it’s hard at the time, can hurt and make you wish you were doing anything else. But once it’s done you know you’ll receive an incredible rush of endorphins and satisfaction – and there’s little more important to our long-term happiness than satisfaction.
I compare the process of learning – no matter what you learn - to going for a long Sunday walk in the rain up a steep hill, knowing that at the end you’ve got a roast waiting for you.
It’s important to remember that your mind – the most complex object in the known universe - is like a muscle. It needs exercise. We’re all well-aware of the vital importance of exercise in relation to our physical health, but we forget the correlation between our minds and our mental health.
You probably know at least one person who’s addicted to exercise because of the endorphin rush they receive once they’ve completed a workout and the deep satisfaction of having achieved something. Likewise, there’s no reason why you can’t be addicted to learning.
The benefits of this is obvious for universities – it’ll make you more desirable as an asset to the institution. This was my own experience. My A-levels were well below my UCAS offer to study Ancient History, but because I was able to demonstrate my love of learning and border-line obsession with history on my personal statement, I got accepted.
But what about if university doesn’t interest you?
Any job or apprenticeship involves learning, whether its computer programs or people-skills or fixing the engines of a helicopter. In entry level jobs employers aren’t looking for a fully-qualified wizard who can do everything. No. They’re looking for people with potential for growth, and by developing a love of learning, you’re drastically improving your potential for growth. Interviewers can spot this from a mile away.
Finally, what I’m outlining in this article isn’t some mad nonsense I’m inventing to meet a word count. Rather, it’s quite an old idea.
The word philosopher, far from meaning a boring-person-who-sits-about-all-day-thinking-about-things, comes from the Ancient Greek word philosophos, which means 'lover of wisdom'. People have known for over two thousand years that people who love wisdom – which is the end product of learning – have advantages in life over people who don’t. In the Republic, one of the foundational texts of Western civilisation, Plato’s core argument is that an ideal society would be ruled by philosophers – ruled by people who love to learn.
Our governments might not be filled with Plato’s philosopher-kings, but our society is still dominated by people who display the traits of a philosopher; Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk – despite his obsession with firing cars into space - are the richest people in our society, and they are so because they have harnessed their curiosity and their desire to acquire new knowledge.
So to answer why you might want to love to learn; it’s because it will improve your quality of life, improve your potential for growth, and it might, just possibly, make you a billionaire.
There are a bunch of great sites out there where you can learn something new straight from your bedroom, such as Future Quest. A site that lets you do short online courses in a great range of topics. So find what you’re interested and pursue it in your pyjamas (We won’t judge). Push are here too to help you find that spark of fire for you learning. Head over to our YouTube Channel, for great tips and advice videos from our wider presenter team.
Guy Reynolds is a graduate of Cardiff University with a BA in Ancient History and an MA in Ancient and Medieval Warfare. Guy’s plan is to gain his doctorate and spend his life studying increasingly niche areas of history. Guy has lots of experience working with wild animals, from Falconry Centres to Wetherspoons, and he loves anything to do with books.
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