“I am going to have a list of what I have to unlearn and replace them with new learning” he stated with conviction. A conversation between two bright and young professionals on the metro rail ride drew my attention. One of them was clearly making a point; how the ability to unlearn and relearn is essential to constantly grow and stay atop, both in professional and personal life.
It set me thinking as to how, letting go of something we think we have understood perfectly well is very challenging. It could be the knowledge and understanding we have gained, the skills we have developed, the values and beliefs we hold; this is our frame of reference or our road map for life. Whatever is opposed to our understanding and belief is often dismissed by us, because we either believe it as false or hold our view very valuable to us. This impedes learning and growth. So really, unlearning to learn and grow, is twice as important as learning.
Unlearning is emptying the cup before filling it; deconstructing what sometimes could be false or unhelpful. We learn and acquire knowledge for our practical daily living in our ever changing world. To me, unlearning involves the more important aspects of life. We tend to make decisions, form opinions and pass judgement based on our learned codes and beliefs. A lack of critical thought where we impose the should’s and must’s’ without rationalizing can often block us from seeing the reality as it is.
Everything in our cognitive realm is about how we interpret things rather than how we see them. Our pre-conceived notions and ideas are so ingrained in us, that they have become automatic. When we shut our minds and will from experiencing or seeing things beyond our beliefs, we are not open to new ideas, accepting things the way they really are, or even changing the way we think about ourselves and our self esteem. An author of our times, J. R. Rim quotes “Intelligence is what we learn. Wisdom is what we unlearn.”
Unlearning isn’t that easy. It requires patience, time and thinking. Questioning, challenging, breaking down the accepted or traditional and building the ‘New’ is what Unlearning is. One can’t just put aside what has been learnt from experiences in life, culture, indoctrination and interactions. But, being more conscious of what we have already learnt, applying that rightly and, seeking to know more, can help us bring in new perspectives. It helps us to loosen ourselves from what we have strictly adapted to and held on, blocking new learning.
Unlearning facilitates growth and change for the better, helps us develop unbiased opinions or decisions, broadens and alters our worldview on many fronts.
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AUTHOR: Portia, Lead Counsellor
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