Picture the scene: you are a 10-year-old child enjoying the best summer of your life. Not a care in the world. Every day brings new adventure, fun, and sometimes even ice-cream.
You’re out and about with your family when your eyes are attracted to a large sign in a shop window. Before you can make sense of the words, it feels like your stomach has dropped to your knees. Joy has been suspended, and replaced by terror. There are three big, bold words staring back at you from that sign: BACK TO SCHOOL. The overwhelming feeling is one of dread, as you contemplate exchanging shorts for itchy uniforms, Harry Potter for Peig and twilight play with friends for early bedtimes. Maybe you remember that very sensation from your own childhood? Or maybe you have blocked the memory as a form of self-preservation?!The topic of why school should cause such dread in children is perhaps for another occasion, but I’m hoping that when you see the “Back To School” messaging now, your reaction is more one of anticipation than fear.
As “grown ups”, we have one massive advantage over our children. We can choose where to focus our attention. There is no syllabus for adults, no curriculum for the mature. We are free to pursue our own areas of interest. Research suggests that we are at our best when we work from fascination, rather than obligation. When we pursue that which fascinates us, we find ourselves more often in a state of flow, and report higher levels of happiness.So as our children begin their school year, you also can re-energise your own life by spending more time in learning and exploring mode. The satisfaction you will get from doing things that truly interest you will spill over into other areas of your life.
Here are some suggestions for getting started:
If you have a smartphone in your pocket, you have access to an almost infinite library of fascinating content. The vast majority of the best podcasts are free. And just like radio, you can listen while doing other things such as driving, commuting, exercising or doing housework. Just search for what fascinates you and let your curiosity be your guide.
There’s still nothing like a great book to capture your attention and fire your imagination. There’s a subtle, but significant, difference between reading for fascination and reading for entertainment. Find a book that you can’t wait to get started with, and you’re likely to find that it leads to another.
3. Find your tribe
Whether it’s a book club, or a discussion group, or a bunch of keen hobbyists, learning is more fun in the right company. You’ll learn from others, and you’ll learn about yourself from your interactions. There’s no better way to get to know any topic than to have to explain or teach it to someone else.
4. Get studying
From night classes to post-graduate qualifications, there are a mind-boggling array of opportunities available to the mature student. And if you’re feeling self-conscious about entering a classroom environment, who says that you need to tell anyone? It can be your own little secret, the best kind of present to yourself! All you need to do is take the first step.
It’s goodbye to dread, and hello to fascination. Back to “school” isn’t just for kids, you know.