Truth Byte #44
“Evolving means un-learning.”
I have been watching my kids, and how quickly they learn. One of the critical skills they also need for success is to be able to un-learn.
Let me give you an example.
When my fist little guy started crawling, it was bells and whistles all around. We were so excited and encouraging of him, and finally he could get around on his own, kind of. A few months later, he was mastering a new skill: walking. As expected, we celebrated with whoops and hollers when he mastered the wobbly dance of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other.
And for most parents, that would be that.
But since I am obsessed with the human potential for growth and change, I couldn’t leave it at that. I was really interested to see how he would make this transition. After all, he had spent months getting his muscles and mind to work just so to be able to crawl, and now he had to forget all that (or maybe build on it?) and move to a completely different skill. Sometimes he would opt to crawl instead of step-step-fall, especially at the beginning. But as time passed, he chose the “easy way” less and less, until the point that he could say to me “Mama, crawling is for babies”.
My daughter, on the other hand, had a different learn-unlearn trajectory. She learned to sit up, then scooch forward on her bum, and one day she just stood up and walked. Once she started walking, she never went back to scooching.
She is better at un-learning things.
And I see this in other aspects of their personalities. When he makes up his mind about someone, he interacts that way with them for ever and ever. So if he likes you at first, he likes you forever. And if he doesn’t really like you, too bad. But with her, she gives you a fresh chance every time you meet her. She will adore you one day, and then be distant the next. She has un-learned who you are and what you mean to her as soon as you are out of the room (though, like most kids even she has one or two favourites).
And while her life seems more tumultuous (she is three after all!), she is also living in the moment a lot more, rather than being informed by the past.
I have seen how as my children develop through their natural developmental stages, they become less adaptable, less able to unlearn. It’s almost like Nature is saying, “You tried that before, don’t make that mistake again, if you want to stay alive!” And they haven’t even hit double digits yet!
And so fast forward to you and me and the adults all around us. Many of us have spent decades learning, and not too much time un-learning. Even when what we had initially learned has become maladaptive, we continue acting that old, safe way. We continue to crawl, even though we suspect walking would get us there faster.
The first requirement if you really want to grow is to be willing to un-learn.
Which means you have to be willing to say, “Maybe I have been wrong about this or that.”
And for some reason, for certain people, admitting they are wrong is worse than ‘being a baby’. It’s just plain out of the question. They continue to trudge along in their usual, unhappy, unfulfilling way of doing things, judging the people around them as ‘uniformed’ or ‘living in the clouds’ or ‘clueless’ or ‘lucky’, while day after day, they insist that their way is the only way and the rest of us should stop running forward into this great glorious life and crawl instead.
On our hands and knees.
Feeling bad about everything and doubtful about ever reaching any of our big dreams.
You may have people like this in your life. I sure do.
When I run in to them (which happens more and more infrequently, I must say), I remember my infant son. Maybe one day they will decide to take the first few difficult steps, and I will happily be there for them as they master the new skill. But I can’t keep pretending they are so accomplished when all I see is crawling and complaining, year after year.
I can no longer play along with that lie.
I have also learned, through painful mistakes, not to call them ‘babies’, and feel somehow better or 'more advanced' than them. This is a really slippery slope in the field of personal development. We hear phrases like, “Oh, she’s just not there yet” to help explain the closed hearts and minds around us. Here’s what I have discovered: some people genuinely do not want to be there. They are happy where they are, and don’t want to be told that there is a way out of their drama.
It’s not fair for those of us who can run to taunt the crawlers.
All we can do is keep running, keep laughing, keep playing, and trust that if they are meant to stand on their own two feet in this lifetime, they will. And if they don’t, it’s not our personal failure. It’s simply the unfolding of their journey.
Human consciousness is evolving. And for those of us at the leading edge of those changes, we will have to un-learn, and un-learn fast.
My challenge to you this week is this: think of something you believe, from the bottom of your heart, to be true, that is making you miserable (for example, germs are everywhere, or life is short, or success takes hard work, or there will always be poverty). I would challenge you, just for a week, to see if you could unlearn that fact. Pretend, just for a week, that something else could be true instead. See if you can challenge yourself to un-learn the “truths” have you have been entrenched in for years. Self-reflection, followed by conscious evolution is the way out of personal chaos, so today, “I’m starting with the (wo)man in the mirror.” How about you?