A few years’ back American writer and business man Alvin Toffler said “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” The business and tech fields were abuzz and have been writing and talking about it since. When I first heard this quote I had no idea that Alvin Toffler was known for his work related to modern technology and the digital and communication revolution. I thought he was a modern philosopher. It never occurred to me that he was talking about the business and tech world. I thought he was talking about life and happiness.
This led to some serious self-reflection and analysis. Not only would you be illiterate in your career in the 21st century if you couldn’t learn, unlearn and relearn. But, you would also be illiterate to navigate your life! Here are 9 things we all need to learn, unlearn and relearn today!
What exactly do we need to learn in life to be happy and fulfilled? Well… let’s start there, we need to learn to find happiness within. But in order to do that you need to figure out who you are and what your purpose is.
Who are you?
No one on earth can teach you who you are. Surly there are people who can help you uncover this but they can’t do it for you. You have never been taught who you are at the core. You are only taught who others see you as. Often when we are young we simply become mirrors for the expectations of those around us. We revolve our lives around who other people think we should be. As adults it is our responsibility to figure out who we are and what we want out of life. This might require some professional help and some soul searching. It will certainly require commitment and time. But it is well worth it. (For self-discovery tips check out my post How to Find Yourself.)
What is your purpose?
Hopefully at some point during your self-reflection you have found a fire within. The fire that drives you and represents your passion and purpose. Now, don’t get this confused with your career. Most people’s purpose has nothing to do with work. You are here for a reason. You are meant to contribute something to mankind. Maybe your purpose will be fulfilled in your own home or community. Make no mistake! Whatever your purpose, it matters! Consider the butterfly effect, according to chaos theory, a butterfly flaps its wings and on the other side of the world there is a hurricane. Even if your purpose seems small to you it is imperative that you fulfill it. And will be impactful in ways you can never imagine.
How to create your own hapiness.
Once you learn who you are and what your purpose is you need to figure out how to create happiness and contentment in your heart. Nothing in the world will put it there for you. No matter how much money you have or how amazing your family is, you will still have to create your own happiness. Unfortunately most people never learn to do this and end up chasing happiness in consumerism or relationships.
Throughout life there are some lessons that we learn that are dead wrong! To live truly authentic, full lives we MUST unlearn these things. They will always hold us back and prevent us from becoming our best selves!
Somewhere along the way we learned to be our own worst critics. We are so hard on ourselves and unforgiving and we’re relentless about it. Images and words swirl around us condemning our every move. We are hypervigilant about every word said and move made. No one is harder on ourselves than us. Our self-talk is so negative! If we ever heard anyone talk to a loved one the way we talk to ourselves we’d be devastated.
It’s time to stop being so hard on ourselves. It takes effort! We need to take the time to affirm ourselves and replace our negative self-talk with positive words. We need to build ourselves up the way we build up those we love. Because, well, we need to start loving ourselves!
Preoccupation with the judgement of others
So how many decisions do you make based on your concerns about what others will think of you? Think about all of it… not just the things you don’t do but also the things you do. Why are the opinions of others so important to you? Well, you have likely spent most of your life trying to conform. Clearly it is necessary in society for there to be a standard of behavior but seriously, we’ve all gone too far!
We are so fearful of the judgement of others that we let our dreams, ambitions and purpose die on the vine. Not only do we do this to ourselves but we model this to our children and expect it of those around us. We toe lines that were never meant for us. Instead of pursuing our heart’s desires and callings we are following everyone else around for fear of standing out. This makes no sense!
There are 3 true things about the judgement of others. First, no one has the right to judge you. Second, no one who’s living their best life will judge you. And lastly, the judgement of other’s doesn’t matter and honestly has nothing to do with you. That is, unless you let it affect you. You need to choose to unlearn concerning yourself with what others think!
Fear of failure
The most true thing about fear of failure is that it’s only purpose is to keep you from success. The reality is, failure isn’t a bad thing! It is progress! Failure is a lesson and a gift! Failure is always a part of success! If you aren’t failing in life then you aren’t trying hard enough!
Somewhere along the way we learned to be more afraid of failure than anything else! This is nonsense! You WILL fail sometimes! You’ve been failing since birth! When you fail you simply need to get yourself up, dust yourself off, adjust your approach and get back at it.
Think about all of the times you have failed in your life. Have you ever been fired or not hired? Been rejected or dumped? Tried a new hobby or sport and absolutely sucked at it? What’s the worst that happened? You were disappointed and you moved on! Did you die?!?! NO! You found a better job or partner or learned a new skill. Maybe you’re still waiting on these things to come to full fruition but here’s the thing… YOU SURVIVED!!! Keep this in mind when you’re clinging to fear of failure. You need to go big! Don’t let fear of failure hold you back!
People often talk about what they would say to themselves if they could go back in time. They speak of warnings or encouragment they would give. But they often don’t consider the wisdom of their own youth. If our young selves could come forward in time to now there are a few things we could learn. We knew these things at some point in our lives and we need to relearn them now.
Love your body
Here’s a funny thing, no one, I mean, NO ONE is born with body image issues! You never see babies rushing to cover themselves up. And most parents complain that they struggle to keep clothes on their toddlers. Now I’m not suggesting that you run around naked all day (but if that’s your jam, go for it). What I am suggesting is that you relearn to love your body.
Change your focus! You used to feel strong and capable. Appearance wasn’t even a consideration. Now it’s everything you think about and it’s not doing you any good. When we relearn to love our bodies we connect with ourselves. And this is when we can really start taking care of ourselves.
Start making a concerted effort today to praise your body and appearance. Remind yourself of the amazing things your body has done. It’s gotten you this far and will get you so much further if you learn to love it again!
Find joy in the simple things
It seems like we live in a never enough culture. We’re so disconnected from nature and each other and the simple things just get overlooked. As children we could spend hours with our imagination. We could spend the entire day outside playing in the grass. The simple things were incredibly exciting and beloved.
Somehow along the way 2 things happened. One, we became jaded and consumer focused. And, two, we became too busy (probably trying to afford all of the stuff). We need to understand that all of the things in the world won’t fill us with happiness. You can’t find true joy in something that is manufactured and purchased. You find true joy within and it is best when shared with those we love. Maybe if we relearn this truth we can slow down and stop worrying so much about chasing the all mighty dollar. Maybe we can stop and smell the roses (so to speak) and reconnect with the simple things.
I get it… we’ve all loved wholeheartedly and at some point we’ve been burned. It is basically impossible to have never gotten hurt in the love department. Unfortunately some are even hurt by their first love, their parents. We don’t always have the best examples of love and we don’t set the best examples either. The years of your life before you were 5 you loved and entirely trusted your primary caregiver. You looked up to them and believed in them entirely. These are called the formative years. At that time in your life you love wholeheartedly. You don’t think about the possibility that you could get hurt. You simply love!
I know that it’s scary and risky but you need to learn to love like this again. First, you need to start by loving yourself like this! Love all of yourself wholeheartedly and trust yourself entirely. No this doesn’t make you a narcissistic egomaniac! This makes you a healthy whole person. Next you need to put yourself out there and love another person wholeheartedly. I don’t mean your kids (but by all means, do that too). I mean you need to put yourself out there to a life partner or a friend. Let someone all the way in! Let someone know you completely! Love yourself and them with everything you’ve got! It’s worth it to relearn how to fully love ourselves and others!
Learn, Unlearn, & Relearn
Throughout my life there have been a lot of twists and turns. Some have been wonderful and some difficult (even outright devastating). What I’ve figured out along the way though is that you just have to keep going and you have to adapt. Alvin Toffler might have been a business writer and might not have been talking about life at all. But his words still apply because honestly there isn’t a way to adapt if you can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.
I’m sure that throughout my life there will be many other things that I need to learn, unlearn and relearn. Right now though these seem to be the big ones. What things are you working on?