Creating Opportunities to Learn

Seattle__s.jpgI think it is important to be a lifelong learner.

Why?  If for no other reason, one can soon become stale.  I have found that I need to be intentional about exercising my mind.  My mind needs to be stretched.  Yesterday, I was at a satellite location (Baylor University) of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.  One of the speakers was Marcus Buckingham, whose books I had seen but not read.  Most of his message dealt with the importance of maximizing one’s strengths at work (instead of focusing on weaknesses).  At one point he said,

"Learn more about what already interests you."

Now I like that!  Stretching my mind is not just learning about things that might be new to me but learning more about what already interests me.  So now, a few suggestions:

1.  Read widely.  Don’t just read people whom you already agree with.  Don’t just read people who are popular and valued among your peers.  Read widely.  Read people with whom you don’t necessarily agree.  I have found this particularly helpful.  Far too often, some of us become too predictable in what we think because we read so narrowly.

2.  Learn from anyone.  I know some ministers who read nothing but theology.  Hmmm.  I have been blessed by reading articles in Fast Company, Outside, and by skimming newspapers from all over the country (these are readily available online).  My friend, Chris Bullard, in Kansas City, Missouri, modeled this for me when we lived there a number of years ago.  He not only read widely but was eager to learn from anyone.

3.  Engage your whole body.  We become lifelong learners not just by reading but by using other parts of our bodies.  Maybe you decide to try new food that you have never tasted (Chinese, Thai, Indian) or perhaps you choose to listen to music that you’ve never heard before (rock, country, classical, jazz).  Perhaps you watch a television program you would not ordinarily watch.  Maybe you take a walk and pay attention to birds you see or flowers or plants in someone’s yard.

You might be surprised as to what exercising your body can do for you (not to mention the importance of being a good steward of a body created by God).  Maybe you start taking a brisk walk every morning.  Or, perhaps you begin working out at the gym every day.  Don’t worry about trying to do as much as someone else.  Do what is right for you and for your body.  Far too many of us have bodies that are not being cared for.

4.  Listen.  Who can you learn from right now?  Ask people questions.  Ask people questions about things that interest you.  Do you know someone who seems very fresh and alive?  Ask her what she is doing to stay on this track.  

5.  Learn about what interests you.  I like this line from Marcus Buckingham.  Learn about what interests you.  Do you like to grill?  Learn more about grilling.  Do you like a particular sport or a particular kind of music?  Learn more.  Are you fascinated by a particular country?  Learn more about that country.

6.  Pray for a hunger to learn more from GodSome of us get very comfortable with God and do not get intentional about knowing him.  Am I reading Scripture (not just my favorite texts but the whole of Scripture)?  Do I desire to understand more fully the richness of God’s character?  Do I read materials that help me understand the Christian story and the meaning of what God has done in Christ?

What else would you add to this list of six? 

I would enjoy hearing from you about what you are learning.  What are you learning right now?  What has been particularly helpful to you in an effort to remain fully alive?   

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Creating Opportunities to Learn

  1. Write something.  I have found that writing is a unique discipline.  It is one thing to absorb from what I read or see or hear.  But when I write, something is expected from me.  I am forced to clarify and establish some priority in what I think.  It engages my creative side, creates some ownership for what I think, etc.  It’s one of the main reasons I started blogging.

  2. Jim,
    It seems like I’m constantly being reinvented a little at a time by God. By slowly working through Mark all year, and praying the Psalms with the church throughout the year, I feel like I’m having my inner furniture replaced. I’m leaning more and more about Jesus and why I love Him. And I’m learning how to pray better as taught by the Psalms. I hope I’m learning how to be more of a blessing to people (as per Jesus) rather than walking around with my hand out in expectation of a blessing.
    I’m not reading any books at present, though I sure I need to!

  3. That is a great list. I too had the opportunity to be at the Leadership Summit this year.I would add Inc. to the list of good magazines.  I am reading Small Gaints which was in an ad in Fast Company. Thanks for the list. 

  4. This is a great list, and I particularly enjoy the ones referring to reading "outside your comfort zone."  For years, I stuck to C.S. Lewis and very few others, and felt safe in that area.  However, in recent years a close friend has introduced me to writers who have challenged me to consider social issues from a faith perspective, rather than just considering theology itself.  William Stringfellow is one prominent one who comes to mind — an Episcopalian who passed on the priesthood, preferring instead to practice law in inner city areas, and tackle issues of war and social justice.  A very challenging man indeed, and well worth the read if you’ve never seen any of his work.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer is another one I’ve tried to tackle — not the usual easy read (on the surface) that I’ve always gotten from folks like Lewis.  Reading him is going to be a lifelong process of understanding.  Lately, I’ve also started reading works by Jewish writers, to explore that part of our theological background — fascinating stuff!
    I guess I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea of how I’m no longer inside the box.  In fact, I’ve noticed that my logical/political side and spiritual/social side are at loggerheads — frightening at first, but a good side that I’m growing!  The hunger to learn is definitely there, and I haven’t even had to ask for it.

  5. Thanks Jim for the list.  It is very helpful and I’m at a place right now where I really want to do this.  For some reason, I have been thirsty to learn and not sure where to start so the suggestions have been very helpful.  One thing on the list was to learn from someone you wouldn’t normally listen to.  This is one that I’ve been fortunate to realize a few years ago that has been very helpful in my walk.  When I’m able to take judgement out of it because I may think them not very smart or maybe they’ve said something in the past I disagreed with, then God has a way of speaking to me even through the folks I never would have thought He would.  It’s amazing really.  Again, thanks.

  6. Obedience. God has really been teaching me obedience lately. So much so that I had to write about it on my blog. Being obedient to God has really built my faith, and it’s refreshing as a Christian to know that you are pleasing God, and working with Him and not against Him. I like your list!