We had a delightful student this year in summer school. He was not quite 5 years old when the session started. Our time together was the longest he had ever been away from his mother and he had never previously attended any formal schooling. It took him a couple of days to get in the swing of things, but before long it was smooth sailing. He showed up each morning with a smile and an enthusiastic greeting for everyone in the class.
What made it so easy for him to succeed in school is his attitude. This young man loves learning. He never pretends to know something he does not know, nor is he ashamed of the fact that he still has much to learn. As a result, he lights up with each new letter he writes; he can be heard singing the letter sounds as he writes them. This young man demonstrates how maintaining an open mind is the key to learning something new. His receptive state of mind allows new information to flow in and out. He is not hindered by the doubt and worry of the critical mind.
The hardest part about learning something new is resisting the temptation to think we should know more than we actually do. Too often, we jump to misinformed conclusions about ourselves. It happens all the time in surfing. A beginner is struggling with some aspect of wave riding. They tell anyone who will listen about how poorly they are surfing. They believe they know what they are doing wrong. The harder they struggle to fix their problem, the more difficulty they experience. Before long, they are no longer enjoying surfing and feel completely stuck.
The good news is that learning is easier than you think. By approaching any subject with a relaxed, cheerful attitude, learning becomes a game. When you are having fun, the chemicals in your brain function optimally and you gain access to higher-order thinking. The thrill of discovering new things, without the pressure of proving anything to others, makes learning something to look forward to.
If you are struggling in some endeavor and being hard on yourself as a result, now is the time to slow down and breathe. Your own judgment is the only thing that you have to be concerned with. Give yourself a break. Remind yourself that the most successful people are always learning and evolving. Give yourself credit for your willingness to open up to new possibilities. By relaxing into a state of satisfaction, you will have greater access to what you already know. You will also clear the way for new insights and inspiration that will take you to new levels of success.
Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District and the cohost of the inspirational podcast “Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed” on iTunes. For questions, comments, and ideas for future columns, send an email to EdwardBiagiotti@ccusd.org