Stop written in red on white brick wall

Stopping As A Sign of Learning

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Issue 10 – March 2021

Often the clearest evidence that we have learned – or at least that we are on the path of learning – is that we stop.

Stop doing the things that damage our health.
Stop saying the words we know are hurtful to others.
Stop allowing distractions to steal our time.

You get the point.

Learning is commonly viewed and talked about as additive – new knowledge, new skills, new behaviors. It’s important to remember that what we subtract, what we take away or stop doing, can often be more important.

Here are few items to inspire you to start stopping.

1: Unlearn Your Way Forward

What we “know” and how we act may be deeply entrenched. Stopping may be possible only after we commit to unlearning. In this post I highlight and briefly discuss the three “Rs” of unlearning: recognition, release, and replacement.

Truth be told, unlearning is generally much harder than learning – which is probably one reason we hear much less about it. But just as pruning a plant can make it stronger and lead to beautiful new growth, pruning our minds may set the stage for some of our most powerful learning.

2: Stop Working So Much

It’s hard for the three Rs of unlearning to emerge when we are constantly busy. For that matter, it’s hard for the behaviors that support additive learning to emerge either. With his usual wisdom, Leo Babauta divides busyness in the form of overworking into two camps and implores us to work less.

Depending on the camp you fall in, you might ask yourself – as Leo does:

“If I had 2 hours of free time in which I couldn’t work … what would I do with those hours?”

Or, “if I were only to work 2 hours today … what would I do with those hours?”

Personally, I’m a fan of just going for a walk.

3: Stop the Story

I had a hard time figuring out how to name this one. “Stop the chatter” and “Stop thinking so much” were also candidates.

The thread weaving through each of these possibilities is that we all tend to have a story running in our heads much of the time, one that carries our past – consciously or unconsciously – into a future we are constantly imagining, reimagining, worrying about, and somehow never quite reaching.

As David Cain at Raptitude puts it, sometimes it’s useful just to take a break from our minds. As so much ancient wisdom has suggested, that usually means attending more to the present. Learning to appreciate petrichor, for example. Or, switching from narrative to sensory mode.

Either way – and they are essentially same – you end up in a new place, one where learning can happen and has happened.


And now, it’s time to stop this e-mail. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Best regards,


Thumbnail image by José Manuel de Laá from Pixabay

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