We are now up to rule #5 in my all-time favorite short essay on what it means to live a human life, “Rules for Being Human”.
The author, who has wisely kept his or her identity well-hidden, has nevertheless achieved a sort of anonymous immortality as the 10 short so-called “rules” in this treatise continue to circulate, passed along again and again as a sort of eternal favor we aren’t sure who to thank for.
Rule #5 states:
Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
I don’t know about you, but I generally feel happiest and most content when I feel like I have gotten everything to stay “just so” for just long enough to breathe a sigh of relief.
I am so happy when, for the moment, it is all sitting pretty and perfect, like a still-life fruit bowl, for me to admire…and pat myself on the back for achieving.
But the moment something shifts again, I let out another long sigh and wonder if I will EVER get it “right”.
This author is stating that no, I won’t. But the news is not as dire as it might at first appear, because underneath this stern admonition lies a greater truth – there is no “right”. There are only lessons.
We are here to learn. Occasionally, as we master one set of lessons, we are then asked to teach them to others, but this does not exempt us from continual further learning ourselves.
In fact, I have often heard it said (and have often experienced it first-hand myself in those areas where I have been asked to teach) that the best way to find out what you still have to learn is to attempt to teach what you think you know to others.
This is why one of the principle tasks of a mentor is to inform their mentee in no uncertain terms that they do not “have it all together” either.
No one does.
The biggest stumbling block to progress that any mentee could ever face is to somehow begin to believe that at some point, the lessons will end, and that is how they will know they have “done it right”.
There is no “right”. And there is no “end” – at least not in this context.
There are only more lessons.
All around us, the people we admire (and the people we don’t) are learning. Those who appear to have it all together don’t. And the people who don’t appear to have it all together are perhaps more honest than the rest of us.
The relief (and odd irony) in all this is that, when we learn something new, THAT is the moment when we should be patting ourselves on the back, congratulating ourselves for “getting it right”.
We learned. We breathed. We survived. And that is a pretty incredible thing, when you think about it.
Today’s Takeaway: Where have you been putting off, hiding from, or simply resisting learning your daily dose of allotted lessons in the name of appearing to have it all together? What kind of stress might you exempt yourself from if you could just let go of your death grip on appearances in favor of simply doing your transparently honest best to continue learning?
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Last reviewed: 23 Sep 2011