The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

A reason to learn

When I became active as a trainer, I learned that adult learning distinguishes itself from the learning children do. I learned that children follow the teaching they are subject to as there is a necessity to establish some general knowledge. I was also taught that adults step into learning to solve a problem they experience or for a specific purpose they have identified. The idea was that they identified something they needed to learn and wanted to use.

In practice, what I experienced was different.

Whenever I offered training during a conference or some other event allowing a diverse crowd to join such a training quite a few of the participants shared that they attended the training assuming that it would teach them something. They wouldn’t mention any expectations apart from being interested.

While there is nothing wrong with this, I’ve concluded that it isn’t helpful either. In a culture inviting everyone to constantly optimize, grow, or develop oneself there is pressure to feel not enough. It invites us to learn without a chosen purpose and to seek occasions where learning combines with fun. There is nothing wrong with this either. But it becomes useless whenever that learning doesn’t lead to any practice outside of the classroom.

Where it becomes even more complicated is when such efforts to grow, develop, or optimize oneself, fail to connect the individual actions with a chosen purpose.

Maybe based on the idea that optimizing, growing and self-development belong to daily life, or maybe because it has become difficult to feel like being enough, it seems to have become normal to consider any activity that may teach something useful. Or, seen from a different perspective, there is little discrimination in activities that are based on purpose. Some are based on a somewhat intriguing distinction between professional and life activities, and some are based on the distinction between being busy and the anxiety that one might not be doing enough.

The key here is satisfaction. The sense of being enough is supported by activities leading to satisfaction. Such activities help one know that what one has done fulfills a purpose. It doesn’t matter if it is something that helped us grow, develop, or learn something important or if it is something that others acknowledged as helpful for them. The sense of satisfaction is our feedback to feeling enough. Choosing activities based on purpose eases our path to feeling enough. Taking up activities because they seem to contribute to growth, self-development, or learning leaves it to chance that satisfaction will emerge.

But leaving it to chance also means that chance must be recognizable. That is there is an awareness as to what chance may be.

This is where choosing a purpose may align with experiencing a chance. A purpose isn’t a goal in itself. It is a milestone that may transform itself as time passes by. It is something that moves us toward something we want.

It allows us to prioritize tasks and activities.


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