The Learning Curve

S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G …Does the very thought of it make you want to pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep?  Or are you excited by new challenges, with all of your senses awakened and the “good kind” of soreness in your muscles?  Stretching– physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally is essential for our health and well-being. Think about it– the opposite of growth is at best–stagnation, and at worst, a shrinking quality of life. But nobody said it would be comfortable…

sound boardI’m currently in the middle of a learning curve at a new part-time job and as much as I LOVE being there, and I know this position is a total blessing, it’s not easy.  Then again, if it were– would I really be learning anything new?  I think all of the different kinds of learning that happens with a new job must be one of the best ways there is to truly stretch your brain.  Forget the old adage– “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. As we get older, opportunities to stretch our mental capacity and make new connections (neuroplasticity) has been shown to help prevent dementia!  Honestly, could there be a more important fight?

My new job is as a producer/host for a live talk-radio program.  Here’s the unbelievable part–I wasn’t looking for a job, nor did I have any prior experience in this field! (Can you imagine the learning curve– especially for a woman way past her “Media” prime?)  Actually, how the job came to be is such a great story on its own– one that could only have been orchestrated by our Loving Father–but I’m going to save that for another day. 

With every new job comes a variety of mental challenges that make this situational learning as effective in stretching the brain as what can be accomplished in a formal classroom environment.  There are language skills, such as learning a job specific vocabulary, and memory skills– being able to talk about, and promote the work of the company.  There are also usually technical skills– the practical how to’s of accomplishing work tasks.  But the brain growth (and stretching) doesn’t end there.

Vocational learning also includes things like learning to get along with your co-workers, and how to anticipate the needs of your supervisor.  Relational learning lights up a different area of the brain than the language center–once again demonstrating how a new line of work (whether a paid position or as a volunteer) can do much to keep your brain vibrant and healthy.

One thing that has surprised me about this learning curve is how I’ve been making adjustments to rhythms of life at home. While I still haven’t completely worked out all the bugs, I have carved out a regular block of time for research and writing for the job–the consistency is helping me be more productive in this role. Of course, my hope is to eventually recapture more focused writing time for personal projects –such as this blog–as well.

Stretching can be uncomfortable, it can be risky, and at times even bring public embarrassment!  (You don’t ever want to know how long 6 1/2 seconds of silence can be–as I discovered on my first attempt at hosting the program!) Still, I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for growth, and especially as I KNOW this position was hand-picked for me!  Where are you STRETCHING?


Milestones- and the “small stuff” (part II)

Life’s biggest lessons don’t happen at graduations, weddings, or at the birth of a baby.  These are the milestones, the markers of time passing, the “Big Days” from an earthly perspective.  Real learning, (the kind which transforms our thinking and fills us with peace) occurs over time, frequently in tiny increments, and often following painful mistakes.  It’s why while I hope to be able to share some words of wisdom with some graduating seniors at their Baccalaureate, I recognize the opportunity as a simple seed to be harvested later.  Let’s face it, not many graduates will really absorb a message about finding peace as they trust in God’s timing.  Most young people are eager to rush out and “conquer the world”; they haven’t clue about the responsibilities that come with their freedoms. And they certainly don’t foresee the number of detours and waiting periods lurking just around the corner.  Likewise, sharing about finding peace in perspective will probably fall on deaf ears.  How many young people do you know who can step back from the immediate situation and really take in the bigger picture (seeing the forest through the trees)? The truth is, sometimes we have to go through life the hard way to learn the lessons.

The good news, if we’re open, is that we’re always learning; God has shown me again and again that sometimes it’s the little baby-steps that matter most. For example, although this is probably obvious to many of you, I’ll never forget when I learned a truth about asking for help– (and I know it is an occasion on which My Father in Heaven rejoiced :-))  See, I grew up in a home without a foundation of faith, and circumstances being what they were, I became a survivalist– convinced that I alone was responsible for “pulling myself up by my bootstraps” and making a success out of myself.  Independence was the goal, the crowning achievement, the American way, but I never realized how incredibly arrogant it all was too.  Later, when I became a Christ follower, my thinking gradually changed.  As I surrendered more and more of my life over to Him, I began to see that asking for prayer was actually a wonderful gift for others– not only did it bring peace to the one requesting it, but it also blesses those being invited to participate in this privilege.  Still it was hard for me to make personal prayer requests because others seemed to have “greater” needs (and I had minimalized my own pain), While this was true, God showed me over time that actually the root of my hesitation wasn’t about unwarranted requests as I had believed, but actually a remnant of my old pride in my own abilities.  Hard to look at, but grateful for the revelation!!  This life lesson of mine, like so many others, won’t appear on any calendar, but I will remember it forever as a turning point.  Pay attention, Friends!  When it comes down to it, the “small stuff” between the milestones makes all the difference 🙂