Monday, April 16, 2012

A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

That's been the United Negro College Fund's motto for almost 40 years; so much so, that it almost has lost its meaning. However, it is true - a mind is a terrible thing to waste. I don't think enough of us realize that as we cruise through our days  largely on autopilot. We need to make a point of exercising our minds, lest we waste them, or even worse, lose them.

Challenge Conventional Wisdom
Why do we believe what we believe? Be it religion or politics or how we view other people, how did we come up with those particular ideas? Largely, it was parents, families and our communities who helped shape us. They gave us a set of beliefs a long time ago and many of us, for the most part, have stuck with them.

However, it is okay to doubt and to question. In fact, you should doubt and question. We, as a society, need to stop taking things at face value and really think about them. I have questioned my faith repeatedly, searching for answers, asking tough questions and it has served to make my faith stronger. On the other hand, when it came to politics, I questioned and asked tough questions and I didn't like the answers I received. So now, I'm an independent who has crafted my own political views. Views that suit me and not just where I grew up and who raised me.

Challenging conventional wisdom also means listening to the views of others and really hearing them. This doesn't mean you have to change your mind, just open it a little. When I say listen and hear, that is exactly what I mean. Listen with the intent of understanding which is a lot harder than waiting for someone to stop talking so you can state your case.

Start searching for answers and you might be surprised at what you find!

Learn for Life
If we want to exercise and nurture our minds, we also need to recognize that education doesn't end when school does. There are tons of learning opportunities all around us. The Internet puts a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips - so much so that encyclopedias are virtually a thing of the past. The same computer we use regularly for recreation can be used for education. Heck, you can even google things you are curious about on your smartphone.

And curiosity is key. It is the key to a fascinating life of learning. Young children go through a "Why" phase when they want to know everything about everything. Although we grow out of that phase we need to never stop asking "Why?" or "How does this work?" or "Where can I go to find out more about this?" The great thing about learning outside of an academic environment is you control your learning. You can focus on things that interest and appeal to you.

People also provide an incredible opportunity to learn. Talk to someone of a different culture or faith or even from another part of the country about how they do things. You might be fascinated by the differences yet drawn in by how much you actually have in common. 

Talking to older people can be a living history lesson. Through their stories and experiences, history can truly come to life. Likewise, older people can learn a lot by talking to someone from a younger generation. Instead of making assumptions, you can gain a greater understanding of their point of view and line of thinking.

Learning is one of those things that makes life worth living. So learn! Don't let your mind go to waste.

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