Everyday Learning

One of the things I write about a lot, and focus on a lot in my own life, is playing the role of “detective” in life – having a curiosity and an interest in those around me and life in general.

Now, according to the six core values (based on the work of Eduard Spranger, and the third secret in my Understanding Other People book) I have a high Theoretical value. It means that learning and being interested in learning may come easier to me than it would to someone who doesn’t share this value.

But generally I think there is much to be gained by looking at life as a big classroom with lessons everywhere. When we open our eyes and change our perspective to one of interest, we find kernels of surprise in many everyday exchanges.

For example, this week I was in New York City with my children. We were visiting the Museum of Modern Art. I’ll admit that I am not much of an art lover – I like beautiful paintings and I admire the skill involved, but I don’t regularly go to museums for fun. I decided to go with an open mind and see what I could learn from my visit.

As we walked through, I was stunned by the different styles, approaches, and creations that were present throughout the museum. It struck me that the adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is such a truism. The contrast was so extreme – between, for example, Picasso and the modern artist who painted an entire canvas of black paint and nothing else! Famous artists take different approaches to creating beauty – so why do we feel we have to look a certain way to be beautiful, or behave in a certain way to be attractive?

I started to wonder, how can our culture deem one person beautiful and another not, when even the greatest artists of every generation have differences in style? Who determines what looks good and what doesn’t? Who created the measurement and rules that we all seem to willingly adhere to?

Often with my children, when they tell me that someone is “cool” or someone is a “jerk,” I respond by saying, “By what definition? Who defines what’s cool and what’s not?” My kids look at me perplexed because – in their view – of course there is only ONE definition for these things, and obviously mom doesn’t get it! But, I’m trying to encourage them to think for themselves and not to have a preconceived idea about what’s right and what’s not.

So, as you go through your week, focus on two things – (1) finding an “ah-hah” learning experience from something in your everyday life and (2) letting go of any treasured beliefs that there is one way to define (fill in the blank for you) – what’s beautiful, what’s “cool” or who is a “difficult” person and a jerk!