Being a good student in school is quite different from being a good student of life.
That’s not to say that you can’t be book smart, street wise, successful and happy. There are quantum differences in how we learn.
In school, the curriculum is determined by the institution. Good students respect the authority of their teachers, prepare for classes and diligently study to succeed on their exams. They proofread their work and double-check their answers to minimize their mistakes.
Life is different.
The curriculum is not so clear. We may think the goal is to succeed at one job, but in a few years, we find ourselves on another path. If we can get so preoccupied with the busyness of life and work that we can lose our sense of direction.
Some of us accept the curriculum given to us by our parents, our culture or society, and it takes courage to admit to yourself – and then to others – that we have to choose our own goals and follow our own paths.
In real life, the places of learning are not as well-defined. With an open heart and an open mind, we can learn wherever we are and at any time. In fact, we can learn the most in our most significant relationships.
In life, we have many teachers. They can be older or younger and from a completely different culture or part of society. Growing up, we tend to hang out with people our own age, but in recent years, I have discovered that my best friends and best teachers can be 20 or 80.
And of course, three of my greatest teachers have been my own children. At every age, in every stage, I have been open to learning with them and from them. The act of parenting has taught me tolerance, patience and love at a completely different level.
To learn from many teachers requires humility: respect for your teachers in many guises and their wisdom passed on consciously and unconsciously; acceptance of our own fallibility and limits; and recognition that we are little alone but unlimited together.
In real life, we are not always prepared for our tests because the lessons come after.
In real life, the best students learn from their mistakes for we all must repeat our mistakes until we have learned our lessons. To be successful in life we cannot be afraid to make those mistakes and to fail. To discover our potential we must step outside our comfort zones and push to the limits of our abilities.
In real life, the best students don’t score 100%; they overcome their fear of failure and surrender their need to be right all of the time. They run along the edge of their comfort zone, push their limits, take a leap of faith, expand that comfort zone and surprise themselves.
Your happiness exercise for today: At suppertime tonight, I’ll ask my kids what they learned today. They used to think that I wanted to know what they read or what they were taught in class, and my son would always answer, “Nothing.”
But when I’ve answered that question with the pearls of wisdom from my friend, Gordon at the pool, the swimming tips from my friend, Vanessa, and how some little patient made me laugh today, they’ve discovered that there’s a whole lot more to life to learn, there is joy in learning each and every day, and the learning doesn’t stop when we graduate.
Today, recognize your teachers in life and ask yourself, “What have I learned this week? What were my best mistakes (i.e. learning opportunities) of the week? Can I do better (i.e. dare to make more mistakes and risk failure) next week? Where did I push the envelope? When did I reach my limits?”