“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” – Henry Ford
When we were young and in school, we had the wonderful opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves, to sharpen and stretch and grow, and find out new things about ourselves. But when we cross the threshold from college years to adult responsibilities, something happens. Our focus shifts from learning and growing as a person to making a living.
A few years ago, a dear friend began talking me into playing tennis with her one morning a week. Tennis happened to be one of the hobbies I learned to play in high school, but the skill had been sitting in my pile of have-beens since earning paychecks and raising boys had become my primary focus. But one day, in the month of April, I gave in. I pulled out my old (really o-l-d) racket and joined my friends on the tennis court. And you know what happened? I had fun.
I was hooked.
Since then, the same friend has helped me to step my tennis game up many more notches. We now take tennis lessons together from a pro. And yes, though it is fun, in a bigger way, the lessons are a challenge. I am being stretched to excel at something, to learn and grow and become my personal best.
Active learning has costs: money and time. And, learning as an adult requires an adventurous spirit. It’s so much easier to make a fool of ourselves (or so we think) when we learn as adults. But through the tennis lessons, I’ve learned that it’s important to challenge ourselves, even as adults. Especially as adults. It’s important to sharpen and stretch and push ourselves to do things outside our comfort zones, so that we can become a little bit more of who we are meant to be.
This week, I’m skipping out on the tennis lesson to stretch myself in the area of my passion — in writing. Though I write and write daily in the hours when my boys are in school, I have finished my novel, and am looking for a great literary agent, based in New York City. So, this week, I’m traveling from Prague (home) to New York City to participate in an excellent writer’s conference. For sure, I will learn and be challenged and grow as a writer. Certainly, I will make wonderful contacts with other writers, agents, and editors, all at the top of their game. And most of all, I know it is a leap. I can’t wait.
How about you? Do you have a passion or hobby or occupation that you could pursue further through continued learning? Is there a friend or group which you could join to help you along in your journey?
If you do decide to stretch yourself in ways outside your comfort zone, you can be sure that there will be bumps in the road. But also, you’ll find that intangible joy that happens when you’re doing something you know you were made to do and be.