The importance of education – Part 2

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In part 1, I illustrated how education is not a passive process simply involving the reception knowledge, but rather a dynamic and reciprocal one in which both students and their instructors both learn from and teach each other simultaneously. I also expressed the thought that education is a necessary component for leading a happy and fulfilling life. However, is it really that simple? Do we still need something else to maximize the effects of the knowledge and skills we have acquired through education? I think we do …

To use a specific example from physical fitness and health, exercise alone without proper nutrition and adequate rest and recovery will not produce optimal results. In fact, if these other two ingredients are not included in this ‘health and fitness soup of success’, it is guaranteed to taste like failure! Similarly, education‘s own ‘success soup‘ also needs two other key ingredients, which are enjoyment and responsibility, in order to achieve optimal results on a more holistic level. While a proper discussion on the importance of these two concepts for optimal performance and development would require a number of additional articles, in a nutshell, we are simply more likely to do the things we like doing it. We are also more likely to do them longer if we take personal responsibility for the decisions and actions related to them. After all, aren’t the positive long-term, lifestyle behaviours that we enjoy, that make us happy, and which help us to develop and perform optimally as human beings, the very things we all really want to achieve?

In regards to my earlier point about how happiness just seemed to find me with no effort on my behalf, this passive approach works well when it works, but you have no control over it. Unfortunately, this kind of passive approach doesn’t seem to work so well anymore as one gets older and has to become more responsible for their lives. Thus, happiness should be something that is actively pursued rather than passively waited upon. Like anything else worthwhile in life, effort is required. To again use a physical fitness and health example, nothing or no-one can get fit on your behalf except you, regardless of what the TV-shop adds promoting the latest “no need to sweat, this will do it for you’ exercise equipment and methods promise! Similarly, education needs to be treated like exercise, something only we can do for ourselves. Education has to be actively pursued.

“Education should be exercise; it has become massage.” – Martin H. Fischer

So what kind of education do we need to pursue? Does it even need to be a specific educational course or programme? Not at all. If you already have a specific topic or idea in mind that you might enjoy exploring further, then just start with that. In case your drawing a blank, then there is always your own life to study, and isn’t that the most important and interesting subject of all? So, where do you start? A very simple and effective first step is to begin increasing your levels of awareness of the things you do, and the environment you move around in, during your everyday life. I dare say many people living in modern societies live their lives, at least a significant portion of their waking hours, in an almost zombie-like state and have become relatively oblivious to their own feelings and the environment around them. When asked, many of us would actually find it hard to recall, in any specific detail, our trip to work in the morning, that is, what we thought about, the things we saw along the way etc. This is just a simple example of how many of the everyday things we do have become so routine and automated. We are literally on autopilot a lot of the time, but why is that? With the busy lives we lead, it is just easier for us to act on autopilot than to make the effort to think. If we actually took the time to think about everything that was going on in our everyday lives, it could well be overwhelming! Perhaps a busy lifestyle, as well as what we believe success to be, are in fact the problems, but that is another discussion altogether!

So, what can we actually do to raise our levels of awareness? One very simple and easy method to accomplish this is to alter our daily patterns, even in the smallest of ways. For example, for one week you could do the following:

  • go to work via a different route or using a different mode of transport while making a point of observing more of what’s going on around you
  • watch a TV programme that you’ve never watched before (and never wanted do!)
  • read a book, magazine or article, or do an internet search on a random topic
  • if you use a watch, place it on your opposite wrist
  • in the mornings, get dressed and put your shoes on in a different order than usual (be careful of this one, I lost my balance with the shoes for the first 3 days!)
  • what else do you think you could do?

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” -John Dewey

To be happy and to develop and function optimally as human beings, we need wisdom. To gain wisdom we need to learn, and to learn we need education. We need to increase our levels of awareness and to understand that education requires effort and not expect or hope that someone else will do our learning for us. Make sure you enjoy your education, in other words, make sure you enjoy your life. Also, if at all possible, make the effort to help those around you enjoy their lives as well. If you can do that, your happiness will be assured!

I’ll leave you with a summary of the keys steps to happiness and optimal performance. I hope it helps to make a difference in your life.

  • increase your awareness of your environment and the things you do and think about
  • make sure you think for yourself
  • become proactive in educating yourself
  • take responsibility for your actions and decisions
  • enjoy what you do and help others do the same

Jyri Manninen

FAF Director of Education

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