I was recently reading ‘Melody Beatties ‘The Language of Letting Go; Daily Meditations’ book, and a particular page about ‘learning’ really struck a chord with me.
Back at the end of November 2021, I made a big move from Broome (in the North of Western Australia), 2,300km south to a little town called Boddington.
That’s a 3 hour flight plus a 2 hour drive, and literally feels like a different country in every way – despite being in the same state.
With this move, has come a lot of learning for me.
New people, new places, new ways of doing things, new routine, new gossip and even some new work with a non-profit in my town.
To say that it’s been a challenging learning curve adjusting to an entirely new life would be an understatement.
There have even been moments when I’ve sat by my log fire, with a wine in my hand, wondering if it would be easier to just pack up my stuff and go back to what I know – to what is already familiar.
I threw a log in the fire, feeling like I would NEVER be able to adjust; that I’d never get my head around all the new things I had to learn, that I’d be the clueless new girl who couldn’t get a grasp of anything – for the rest of my life. (I’m dramatic, I know…. )
But then I remembered that the last place I lived in was new to me once too, as was everything new that I had to learn there.
I remembered that literally EVERYTHING I can do with ease today, was once completely alien to me too.
But learning can still hurt, and learning how to start and grow a business is just the same
It Can Feel Like You’re Going Backwards
It’s weird how the process of learning can make us feel like we’ve gone backwards in life.
When you move from doing something that you are good at and have mastered, to something brand new; you switch from the Master, to the student.
And that can be uncomfortable for some – even somebody like me who has ‘learning’ as one of my highest personal values.
We’ve gotten used to a familiar status quo, and then we find ourselves staring into an unknown abyss – at the face of something we don’t understand or cannot yet do with the automatic execution of a task known and mastered.
Like looking for a lost item in the attic, our brains scramble to find anything that it can connect the new information to.
It fires off neurons like an in-skull, new years eve skyworks show – hoping to hit some memory target that can instruct us what to do with the unfamiliar information.
It floods our body with chemicals that scream at us to run away, like a siren piercing through every cell in our body. “We don’t know how to do this! This isn’t familiar to us! Brain does not compute! Run away! Run away!”.
Our heart rates creep up as the anxiety bubbles away beneath the surface – heating up a sense of risk as if we were sitting in a pot of water on the stove.
“Things were FINE before we started to grow”, we think.
We were safe. We knew stuff.
Now, in the face of something new, we don’t.
We are like a naked little newborn, all vulnerable and helpless – we question whether to cry for help, or crawl back into where we just came from.
But learning something new isn’t going backwards.
It’s not reverting to infancy, despite how much it may feel like it.
Learning is growth; and sometimes growth can hurt.
Growth Can Hurt
On growth, one of my most favorite quotes in the world is this:
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” [Cynthia Ocelli]
Often when we experience pain, discomfort and the unknown, our mind and body does everything in its power to convince us that we should move away – when instead, we should be acknowledging and appreciating that we are in the midst of transformative growth and positive change.
We should take note of our feelings of uncertainty as signposts that we are becoming more.
Life IS a teacher and she wants us to learn – so that we can grow.
And if we don’t listen?
Life will keep throwing us that same lesson over and over again until we learn it.
Until we embrace the humility of being a learner.
The things that get thrown at us in life are opportunities to bust out of our shells, to thrust our souls into the light and to delight in what we can become.
Learning something new can feel like watching a foreign TV show without the translated subtitles on.
We know there is something worth our attention, but without being able to comfortably decipher it, it’s nothing more than being tortured with messages that we cannot understand.
But what magic awaits us if we could translate it?
Not just the entertainment of one single movie.
An entire language, people, countries, books, music, conversations and perspectives that we would never get to have.
It’s the same with any other skill.
Perhaps you are constantly being thrown the most unbearable inconveniences, because life is trying to teach you patience?
Perhaps you are experiencing constant loss, because life is trying to teach you how to appreciate what you have when you’ve got it.
Maybe you are constantly in conflict with co-workers because life is trying to teach you humility – or that your job isn’t right for you.
Maybe you are being put in stressful situations because life is trying to teach you how to cultivate peace from within.
Whether it’s cooking, a new language, a piece of technology, a riding a bike or Monk-like humility – one day, we learn that new skill, and once learned, it’s almost impossible for us to remember what it was like to not know it.
It’s hard to go back and experience the emotions of vulnerability, frustration, inadequacy and confusion that we had when we were first learning it.
As you learn, be humble – you cannot know something until you know it – and to know it, you must gratefully walk through the journey of discovery and welcome the discomfort and unease that comes with ‘being new’ at something.
The more frustrating and challenging your learning journey is, the more growth you are creating.
Never forget that all pain, frustration, confusion and feelings of vulnerability precede growth and transformation.
When you look across the terrifying expanse of a new learning and your tummy turns, feel yourself rising up an elevator to a brand new level.
As your brain scrambles in madness and confusion, notice your psyche, intellect and knowledge shift to a higher functioning.
As your ego tries desperately to clamber away from a gnawing sense of inadequacy, notice your soul overflow with humbleness and gratitude that you’re stepping further away from ignorance and into self-actualization.
Yes, growth is painful, but stagnancy is spiritual extinction.
Embrace the change. You’re not failing, you’re growing.
Written by Sarah Cordiner.
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