What do students need to be successful in school? What do people need to be good learners, whether in school or on their own?
They need three things.
- Reading Anyone can be a reader, and everyone benefits from reading.
- Good Habits Although schools expect students to have good habits, they rarely take the time to teach good habits. But anyone can acquire good habits, and everyone can benefit from them.
- Inspiration Without inspiration, what will motivate you to read, develop good habits, and learn? Inspiration is the engine that drives our efforts to improve. But why is it so hard to find?
The Lack of Inspiration
Potential sources of inspiration are all around us–so why are so many of us uninspired?
1. Daily living beats the inspiration out of us. Let’s face it, the daily routine is a grind. Seven lessons a day, five days a week is a grind. A lot of it is tedious, and dull. Often, the purpose of what we’re doing is unclear. Often, the connections between what we do in one lesson with what we do in other lessons are obscure, or missing altogether. The daily routine grinds us down.
2. We are out of touch with ourselves. We spend so much time and energy worrying about what others expect of us–how we should look, how we should act, what we should say, what music is cool, what fashions are cool, etc.–that we rarely take time to look inward and ask the really important questions: Who am I? Where am I? What should I be doing? We live in what has been called an “amusement culture”. This is interesting, because historically it is so bizarre. In most times and places, a society’s culture is defined by what people make and do. But in an amusement culture, most people make nothing; all they do is buy things, and amuse themselves. Shopping and playing, however, cannot be the centre of a good life. If shopping and playing are the centre of your life, you have an empty life–a life in which you are alienated from yourself. You’re not doing anything; you’re not making anything; you’re just keeping the economy going by buying things–things that, much of the time, you don’t even need. Things that, in a very short time, you won’t even want.
The 85-year-old Test
Here’s one way to get back in touch with your life. Imagine that you are 85 years old. When you look back on your life, you feel happy and proud. You were, most of the time, the best person you could be. The world, or at least the part of it you lived in and the people you touched, is better off because of you. How did you live your life?
What Is Your Dream?
“I have a dream!” proclaimed Martin Luther King, Jr. What is your dream? If you have a dream to pursue, a vision to fulfill, then you will be inspired. Everything you do, every day, will be a small step toward the realization of your dream. What is your dream? Excuse me? Did you say, you have no dream? When did you stop dreaming? Why? Find your dream. Follow your dream!
Who Will Care About You?
The economy will be very happy if you spend your life buying things. The government will be very happy if you spend your life working in a job you hate, just so long as you are producing something useful to the system. The government and the economy have no interest, however, in your personal happiness. They have no interest in whether, when you are 85 years old, you will look back on your life with pride and satisfaction. They don’t care whether you have a dream. Do you care?
Reading is crucial to learning. Good habits are crucial. But without inspiration, you will have little reason to read, and little reason to cultivate good habits. In fact, you will have little reason to learn, to grow, to be the best person you can be.
Don’t let the forces of dullness grind you down.