Why You Should Learn Something New, Even If It’s Dumb

I am trying desperately to listen to Rupi Kaur’s writing workshop on Instagram. She posted it this afternoon. This weekend, I also downloaded Coursera to follow a course titled “International Women’s Health and Human Rights.” I fell asleep last night listening to an interview. I will muddle through the course content. I ordered the textbook on Amazon.

I’m looking forward to browsing the book, cherry-picking the chapters I will read. Most of all, I look forward to the table of contents.

The Wall Street Journal weekend paper had an article in there titled, You’re Never Too Old To Become a Beginner. The author talks about juggling and triathlons and research experiments that showed five-year-olds do better than adults at certain tasks because children are the most fearless of all when it comes to failure. Learning new stuff is good for your brain. Plus it makes you feel cool. I was inspired to resume my attempt at learning to do the splits. P has since abandoned it. It was her idea to begin with, but whatever!

So tonight, I will sit around trying to make myself more flexible, listening to the lecture I fell asleep to last night, or maybe watching Rupi Kaur’s Insta video. You’re never too old, or too approaching middle-age, to learn something new.

My One Tip For Meaningful New Year’s Resolution

Not too long ago, I sat down at my desk and created a Google document with everything I want to do before 2024. I even went a step further and shared my list. Sharing makes things official, after all.

At this point, my Google doc has evolved to include habits and rituals that I don’t want to forget. The funny thing is that all these little things add up to what I want my life to look like.

Google says vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

Here is my version: to have vision is to picture the future with imagination, possibly wisdom, and record it somewhere.

A vision for your life doesn’t have to be perfect. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be done. It’s a work in progress.

New Years Resolutions focus on one year, the one straight ahead. Imagining a year isn’t that hard.

So, work backwards: Create a vision for the year. Write it down. Make your resolution. Share it with someone.

Why Your ‘Self-Care’ Might Be Self-Centered

Wikipedia says self-care refers to “the care and cultivation of the self in a comprehensive sense, focusing in particular on the soul and knowledge of the self.”

Knowledge of the self is a tall order. It’s hard. Cultivation of the self, even more so. As a result, self-care has become a shorthand for making comfort based decisions. For staying the same. For avoiding a stretch. 

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve decided that I’m not going to put more on myself,” or, “I’m not going to put myself through that”? On its face, this seems smart. It seems like this person is practicing self-care. He is saying no. He is avoiding activities that create anxiety and stress.

But there’s another way. What if that thing that caused him stress just didn’t? What if he grew? What if he could learn to rise above and handle it?

Self-care does not involve avoiding things that cause anxiety or discomfort. Self-care means leaning in, little by little, so you cultivate but don’t break.

One Way Team Sports Are Gendered

In the U.S., team sports are a metaphor for real life. Amazon is a team. Lucas Films is a team. Even our presidential administration is a team. Each has its star players. Everyone on the team has a part to play. That’s one part of the metaphor.

The other part is the competition. Team sports require a head-on battle with another human for a ball or a pitch. In real life, it’s looking someone in the eye and making a pitch for money. Or votes. Or some other high-stakes thing.

We project these ideas onto our kids all the time. And football is the ultimate expression of the team sports metaphor. But people are slowly becoming more open-minded; boys don’t have to learn to hit and take a hit playing football, and girls are not limited to dance or cheer.

Keep going. Use sports to teach resilience, toughness, and teamwork. Play to kids’ strengths and work on areas for improvement regardless of gender. Every kid needs to learn how to be part of a team.

How to say what you mean: Be Specific

When my kids have a fight and when the hitting and name-calling are over, I like to get each of them on (separate) couches to talk. Like an intervention. I will then ask each of them to relay the details of what happened, and without fail, they have different accounts of what started the fight and who did what. Always. When I ask something like, ‘Why did you hit your brother,’ I usually get an answer like, ‘Because he’s a jerk.’

What is anyone supposed to do with that information?   

Saying what you mean is an art and a skill. It takes maturity. It takes language and vocabulary. And it takes removing the emotion so that the other party can hear you clearly. Why do you think legal contracts are dry and boring? The documents to sell my house has phrases like ‘promulgated exclusions,’ and ‘effective date.’ You wouldn’t know there was any emotion from reading it, yet there is. Paradoxically, when confronting someone who has offended you, it’s best to keep it dry and specific. Emotion just gets in the way.