Last month millions of schoolchildren around the world returned to the classroom. The new school year carries a special air of excitement because it is all about fresh starts. No matter what happened last year the chalkboard is blank once again.
So too in life. Your past is SO last year. Whatever happens in the next year/next phase of your life need not follow any old pattern, for you always have the opportunity to reboot.
Whether or not you are currently raising children, you likely remember the rituals associated with the annual return to school:
- New clothes.Younger kids get a whole new wardrobe because they have outgrown everything. Even after the growth curve flattens out, there is always room for a new outfit to freshen up the look.
What is a “new look” you want to nurture this year? What might you “put on” to change or update your appearance? What about a new, more confident posture? Consider accessorizing your outfits by wearing a smile more often!
- New shoes.By the end of last year your once-shiny shoes were dull, scratched, and worn out. At the same time, they were totally broken in and fabulously comfortable, even as your feet were busting out of them.
What are the stories you live in that no longer fit, but you keep them around because they are comfortable? Is it maybe time to pick up a new story that fits you better, based on where you are today?
- New teachers.Remember how you used to feel both a fear and excitement about your new teacher?
If it has been a while since you learned something new from the teachers in your life, it may be time to expand your network. Look to unexpected places; for example, in today’s rapidly shifting world, some of your best teachers are younger than you. But it’s not about age. As long as you are open to learning, anyone can be your teacher.
- Review what you already know.New learning requires a solid foundation. Thus, the first few weeks of the school year are spent reviewing fundamentals from last year.
Everything you have ever learned is still present somewhere in that complex filing system of your brain. If you are experiencing troubles in any part of your life or work, start by first reviewing what you may have forgotten, and notice that you already know the answers to your own questions.
- New learning.School curriculum is built around a cycle of repetition with increasing complexity. As a 1st grader you learned your letters, so that in 12th grade you could use them to write essays. 5th graders learn about friction and mass so that 11th graders can understand physics.
One of the biggest barriers to adult learning is “I already know that.” Of course you do! But that doesn’t mean you absorbed 100% the first time. When you practice curiosity and openness, you may find there is greater depth or new opportunities for application of just about everything you know.
- New schedule.New teachers, new subjects, and a different order of your learning all add to the excitement.
Do you ever feel like you have fallen into a rut? Then change it up! Shift the flow of your morning, drive a new route to work, experiment with new foods, join a new group, watch new shows. When you change up your routines, you stimulate your brain and increase your attention “muscles.”
- New tools.Oh, the smell of a new knapsack! The glorious potential of a fresh, blank notebook! Even for those who get less joy from learning, the excitement of new school supplies can be enough to get them started.
What are the new tools that will get you excited about living your life? What about starting a 30-day Gratitude Journal or creating a Joy List? Might now be a good time to introduce five minutes of meditation or a 20-minute walk into your daily routines?
Not in school? You can still grab the energy of the annual return-to-school ritual and use it to jump start something new for yourself.
The best way to learn is to show up, and the best way to change a habit is to get started. Pick just one idea from the list above and try something new. Stretch yourself, and prepare to be amazed at your potential.