Children offer us the best examples on how to experience life. Although driving us crazy sometimes, they don’t really listen and follow what they’re told. They’d rather do, be wrong, and learn through that. And this is not because they’re poorly educated. This is actually how our brain is wired. To learn through experience and observations and not through being told and obey.
No matter how often we read about something or how much and well-intended are some people’s advices, we won’t really make that thing part of our life unless we experience it ourselves one way or another. I’m not talking here necessarily about failing. It can be a personal observation, a mistake, but also a lifting experience that is really meaningful for us.
The only mistake we can make is to stop experiencing. To settle for what we know, for what we have, for the comfort zone. Sometimes to experience life will mean to be disappointed, sometimes to suffer and be desperate. But it will mean to succeed as well, to go through breath taking experiences, to feel joy and sorrow, thrill or pain. As long as you get your senses moving and your mind exploring, to experience the outside means experiencing yourself and your limits as well.
How learning works in humans
The human brain learns best by experiencing life in all its forms. There are two types of learning:
- Observational learning: we learn by observing the others. Learning to write or to dance are good examples of this kind of learning. Observing how things go well or wrong in the world can also teach us valuable lessons. Travelling and observing different cultures is another way to experience life and learn. And these are only a few examples on how humans learn through observation.
- Conditional learning, or making associations and connections. We learn by understanding the connection between things, such as the fact that the lightning and the thunder are connected because they happen at a very short time distance. Or, we learn by understanding the connection between an action and its consequence. We water a plant, it grows, we lie to someone, and we lose their trust.
As you can notice, our brain is not wired to learn by reading a “how to” recipe. We might get ideas, we might be inspired, but unless we start experiencing the advices in the guide, we won’t be learning much.
That’s why reading such a guide, taking a course or listening to a podcast only helps if you are willing to go one step further. And that is, to start doing things, understand what works for you and learn through those experiences. Then, apply your discoveries to changing your life, your context, your perspectives.
Are you feeling stuck in a job you don’t really like or where you don’t see any prospects for growth and development? Can you change this and make it better for you? Experience something new, learn a new skill, get involved in a new project, and change jobs if needed. Just don’t linger in the current state for too long. It will kill your mood and the life in you.
Likewise, do you feel apathy and disconnection with your lover? Experience more, change the activities and the type of discussions you have. Escape and enjoy something on your own. Break up if all this is not working and go out there, be vulnerable and single and learn to be happy on your own. Eventually, the right one will come along.
Have you been waiting to learn something new? Dying to go to a certain place? Wanting to get a dog and it was never a good time? Dreaming of opening your own business or start-up? What is stopping you?
Break the patterns, experience life, and enjoy your everyday. Learn to meditate, and to be aware of what is what you’re really feeling like currently. Master the art of detachment from negativity and put things into a healthier perspective.
Learn to build courage to stand for what you want and need, and start exploring and learning and growing.
The challenge of experiencing life
I want to challenge you and ask you to do one simple thing for the next 30 days. And this is just to answer one question, before you go to sleep. After you put yourself into bed, getting ready to read something or just relax, think and answer the question
“How did I experience life today?”
Think of the smallest things you might have tried for the first time, like a new spice for your dinner, to smiling to a stranger or petting a dog. Whatever comes to your mind that you consider a learning experience, be it in the simplest of forms. It’s an exercise to help you be aware of the things you learn, how you learn them and it will also raise your appetite for exploring even more. There are so many things you can do, what are you waiting for?