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Are you truly available to learn?

It’s easy, particularly for those of us who identify as lifelong learners, to assume that we will gravitate toward learning, that we will welcome learning opportunities as they come our way.

But we should question that assumption.

There are, after all, so many ways in which we make ourselves unavailable for learning.

We are biased in countless ways, and these biases very often prevent us from seeing or opening up to learning opportunities

We carry “baggage” from our past that can hold us back. As Seneca put it so aptly, “No man can swim ashore and take his baggage with him.”

We are arrogant – even if unwittingly. There’s plenty of research to suggest that we often think we know more than we do and that “experts” – which all of us are in at least some areas of life – are often blinded by their expertise. We need more epistemological modesty.

We are “under the influence,” very often thinking or acting in ways that are at least partially determined by others. Read Robert Cialdini’s work to appreciate the pervasiveness of influence in our lives.

We are stuck in our routines, absorbed in what we have been told (or told ourselves) to do. We miss the gorilla in the room, so to speak, like here and here.

There’s no easy answer to any of this. Humans are going to be humans.

Still, change and improvement start with consciousness, and one clear path to consciousness is to make it a habit to ask ourselves periodically, every day, “Am I truly available to learn?”

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