It’s quite possible to live life without learning from it. People do it all the time, often repeating the same patterns and mistakes over until the day they die. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Of course, that was before social media, pro sports, and Netflix were available to make shallow living quite entertaining. While the claim Socrates made was a strong one, I think it is safe to say that to live without awareness is to miss out on the rich potential that life has to offer.
Let me share with you four truths about living an “examined” life.
Everything that happens to you is a learning opportunity.
Some people believe “everything happens for a reason” and was meant to be. I don’t believe that wars, the Holocaust, children dying of cancer, and serial killers are all part of some master plan. Bad things sometimes happen to good people, and evil people may live long and luxurious lives. There are all kinds of factors which influence why things happen, many of them out of our control. But I’m convinced that there are learning opportunities in everything which happens to us if we train ourselves to look for them. When circumstances change or become difficult, they can bring things to the surface, revealing areas that we need to work on and grow in. No experience is wasted when we live as a student of life.
Seeking understanding is vital to conscious living.
Many people live life passively, merely experiencing and reacting, often with no understanding of why they respond they way they do. Unconscious living leads to us repeating patterns over and over in life. Often negative ones. The famed psychotherapist C.G. Jung described such living this way:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Without developing insight and self-awareness as to why we do the things we do, we most likely will feel ourselves at the mercy of life – outwardly controlled, rather than inwardly directed. Until we begin to understand ourselves, how can we ever hope to understand others? Looking within and becoming aware of the beliefs and patterns which direct our actions will position us to be a wise learner, rather than a helpless victim of circumstance. Awareness of a negative pattern is the first step towards changing it.
A lot of “lab work” happens in relationships.
Our closest relationships are the place in which insight and change are most possible. It is there that we are most willing to open up and be vulnerable. There, flaws are revealed in the friction of daily life together. If we expect perfection, we will be soon disappointed, but if we view relationships as a place of deep learning and growth, then conflicts are opportunities to craft a more intimate and fulfilling connection. Love does not erase imperfections. Rather, it is the glue that holds the relationship together so that growth can happen.
How many of your friends are also students in the University of Life? The kind of friends you spend your time with will strongly influence your learning curve. Does your circle of friends include those who are living lives of insight, who will challenge you and call you out on your nonsense? Such friendships are vitally necessary.
The course content will change, but the learning is lifelong.
Don’t expect to graduate any time soon. Different stages of life offer unique challenges which we haven’t faced before, so even when we’ve mastered one area, there are plenty of others to focus on. Sometimes life will offer us several classes at the same time. This can be challenging. We have to stay open and learn and grow as much as we are able. Things will fall into place over time. Each lesson learned will unlock new levels of learning.
The University of Life is offering classes in your local area. Learn from home, at your own pace. Tuition is affordable (but the cost of not learning is expensive). Enrollment is always open. Why not sign up today?