Last Monday was back-to-school day in Dallas. Even if you or your children are not back in a classroom, I have news for you: We’re all in school! No one has all the skills required for success in every stage of life or every challenge we might encounter. I often joke that to learn everything we need to know in life takes 700 years. We have to learn progressively and continually. This is life-long learning. I call this “Grow Into It.”
My father and his siblings owned a fair-sized business. I have clear memories of him telling me many times, pointing to his daily correspondence and continual reading, “This is my homework,” and, pointing to his balance sheet, “This is my report card.” He was saying that, just as I was in school and had a duty to work hard and learn as much as possible, so did he. There will be a test.
My psychology clients range in age from their twenties to their eighties. During the course of their psychotherapy, they all discover that they lack some valuable skill for living, for successfully solving the particular dilemma that life is throwing at them. I urge them to see themselves as students, and to go about learning the skill they lack. As they do this work, it is uncanny how their efficacy in life goes up, and their mood follows.
This applies to me, too. Some people have lots of experience buying and selling cars. I don’t. The vast range of choices can be dizzying, even overwhelming. So, when I recently bought a new car, it took weeks of research, consultation, and experimentation for me to feel confident. However, having schooled myself about the marketplace, my choices, and ways to negotiate, I emerged quite pleased with my vehicle choice and the price paid.
Here is the punchline. No one knows everything, and everyone must keep learning. This is, I believe, a liberating insight. It means that there is no shame in not yet being an expert in a particular area. It means that your friends will be happy to help you gain the new skill, because they know you will be happy to return the favor when needed. It means that consulting a psychologist about your particular dilemma does not mean you are sick or crazy!
So, when you wake up every day, remember that school is in session for you, too. Have a great year!
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.