We put a lot of value on the process of learning for finding yourself, so why is it important to practice unlearning from time to time as well? Most of us went to school; some of you are still in school, and some of you have children or family members going to school. Indeed, there is some benefit and value to school, specifically learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. You learn how to respect authority and work with other people. You also learn how to “play the game” by seeing what produces positive outcomes in one area and adjusting your actions to produce those outcomes. This is something you will need to do in life, even when you don’t agree with the process. But there is also some nonsense that gets taught in school that you need to unlearn.
Unlearning is important because it helps you deal with change, get over your biases, and make better decisions. It also makes you more creative as you learn to let go of bad habits and negative thoughts. Unlearning to find yourself enables you to engage in lifelong learning.
Why is unlearning necessary?
Unlearning gives people the chance to question and change their existing beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that may no longer help them or make sense in their current situation. It enables individuals to adapt to change and new situations. By letting go of outdated beliefs or habits, individuals can make room for new ideas and behaviors that better align with their current goals and circumstances.
Unlearning can help people make better decisions by giving them a chance to look at their assumptions and biases and make better choices based on new information and experiences. Additionally, it can enhance creativity by allowing individuals to break free from rigid thinking patterns and explore new ideas and ways of doing things.
Learn relearn unlearn: 6 useless patterns you learned in school.
1. Being passive
School is designed to have you sit down, shut up, fold your hands, and listen to the teacher teach. Whatever the teacher says, goes. Whatever is in the textbook is the truth, and if you have a truth that is not in the textbook, you will fail the quiz or the test. You’ll also get left behind in class and may end up repeating the year. The school is set up to tell you what it is, and you are too blindly accepting to memorize it and regurgitate it on the standardized tests. This is why you must unlearn what you have learned in school.
The reason why unlearning is needed here is because in the real world, passivity gets you left behind and forgotten. The most successful people in the real world are those who proactively make things happen, not passively waiting for someone else to tell them what to do or tell them what to think.
2. Waiting for permission.
In school, we need permission to do anything that we want to do. You need permission to ask a question, go to the bathroom, or walk the halls. You even need permission to refer to someone or something who may be able to help you with a problem. However, if you attempt this during your test, you may be marked as a failure. Heck, you may even get kicked out of an institution!
How crazy is that? In the real world, the most successful people do not ask for permission. Instead, they just do what they want to do and, if necessary, ask for help with something that’s not their forte. You can see already, how much of what is taught in school is the exact opposite of what you need to succeed outside of school. Time is money in real life; you can’t wait for someone’s permission to take action on your goals.
3. Deferring to authority.
This one, on the other hand, does have some positives and some negatives. It depends on where you plan on going in life. If you plan on getting traditional employment where you will have a boss and supervisors you’ll have to passively defer to instructions from others. Then being groomed to defer to authority is actually a good thing. It is getting you ready for the rest of your life; you will be doing this for the next fifty years.
There are places in life when you do need to defer to authorities. If you plan on playing a team sport, you will have coaches who are in a position of authority. If you grew up with attentive, active parents, they must have taught you to respect authority. However, you also need to know when to turn that off. Unlearning authority is essential for finding yourself.
If, on the other hand, you plan on doing your own thing, running your own business, and being entrepreneurial, then this is setting you up for failure, and you must unlearn this. If you plan on being an entrepreneur, there is no authority to defer to—you are the authority. You make the rules, and you break them when you wish. You do not wait for someone else to tell you what it is, you decide what it is, and you tell others.
4. Learning for the test
In school, you get certain information based on the tests that you’ll be taking. The evaluation process here is something that you should understand because, in schools, everyone does their job based on looking good in their evaluations.
These evaluations are not always based on how much the students have learned or how much their knowledge has grown. It is based on standardized testing, which is ostensibly archaic and set in stone. But life is not standard for everyone at all times. This presents a conflict that you can’t resolve in a predetermined order.
So, if a student does not learn in the standard way, they’re treated as a problem that needs to be fixed. This is, even when there is nothing wrong with the student. In real life, however, no one cares that you can regurgitate information from a book. Do you understand how to hustle? In the real world, you need to be able to think on your feet and solve complex problems with your own ingenuity. Simply regurgitating what you hear or read.
5. Doing the bare minimum
I can speak to this one from personal experience. In school, I learned that the game was simply to do enough work to get by. I’d do enough to get a C to pass each class, move on to the next level, and eventually get a degree. In sports, specifically football and basketball, coaches sometimes say, “C’s get degrees.” The point being, there is a bare minimum level of effort that will allow you to skate by in school. See why you must unlearn what you have learned?
So people get degrees that mean absolutely nothing, because they have learned nothing—they just did enough to get by. I was one of them. This bare minimum level of effort will cause you to be a loser, or mediocre at best, in the real world. This is not a good real-world strategy. But schooling conditions force many of us to do exactly this. The good thing for me is that I was able to understand this, and thus avoid it becoming a lifelong habit. But many people do not understand it and do not avoid it—as a matter of fact, they lean into it. Indeed, unlearning can become a challenge if this pattern of doing the bare minimum is set in stone.
6. Avoiding learning.
Because of all the points mentioned here, many students can become disillusioned with the concept of school and, in turn, start ignoring the concept of learning altogether. This is because of how it’s presented, especially if they are told they are bad students or can’t learn because they don’t fit the standardized system. Hence some students grow up to be adults who don’t believe in knowledge or education. What we need in life instead is the ability to learn, relearn, unlearn.
Takeaway: Unlearning for growth in life
If you are often uninterested in taking courses or investing in gaining new insights, you need to undergo an unlearning process.
Some examples of useless things we learned in school could include outdated historical facts, irrelevant math formulas, or incorrect scientific theories that have since been debunked. It’s important to note that just because something may have been useless in the past. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be useful in the future.
However, by unlearning the useless things we learned in school, we can make space for new and more relevant information and skills that will better serve us in our current and future endeavors.
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