Have you ever really finished your education'
July 30, 2009
Fort McPherson & Fort Gillem
"What did you learn today'"
That question is asked on a daily basis throughout the school year as children arrive home to their parents. It's also a question we can each ask ourselves.
Do you remember when you finished school' You had studied hard, expanded your mental horizons to new and (hopefully) exciting subjects and, upon collecting your certificate, diploma or degree, heaved a great sigh of relief.
But have you considered your education since then' Have you continued to move forward and learn even more' We've all heard someone say, "I always intended to go back to school, but then life happened."
We wonder how the years have flown by, then realize they were spent working 50 hours a week, raising a family, maintaining personal relationships, eating, sleeping, doing laundry, watching TV, cleaning out the garage, feeding the dog and otherwise living life. How can you go to school at the same time'
The answer is in realizing that while your life may be laden with responsibilities, there are always opportunities - and reasons - to learn. Continuing to challenge ourselves mentally helps maintain a healthy brain.
While the Army is a fitness-oriented profession, we need to remember that a healthy brain needs regular workouts, too.
Those workouts can help us think clearer and remember more, greatly increase our professional and personal options and make us happier and more satisfied with our lives. As professionals, we have jobs to do and are expected to perform our duties with the utmost competency.
While others may see us as experts in our field, we all know there's always room for professional development. The questions come down to: what skills would you benefit from being more proficient in, and how can you get them'
The great thing about training is that it's available in so many formats: in-class; online; on-the-job; through mentoring programs, business conferences or professional journals; or just by working with a supervisor or fellow expert. If you're not sure where to go for training or what your other options are, ask others in your field - chances are they'll prove to be a valuable resource.
Another cause for professional development is in preparation for the base closures. While some employees will travel with their units to new locations, many plan to find a new job and stay in Atlanta.
If you're in the latter category, ask yourself what would make you more marketable. Would your chances of finding a new job be greater if you completed a degree or registered for a certificate program in an area associated with your profession' Would it help if you learned another software program or a second language' Learning new skills will not only provide you more options, but will make life more interesting.
I know a woman who, in her mid-40s, is learning to use a computer for the first time. She had graduated in 1981 from a high school that had not yet started teaching computers. In the years since, she's raised a daughter while working a non-computer-related job in the service industry.
When asked why she decided to learn computers now, she said it's something she's always wanted to do, but was afraid that it was too difficult and was embarrassed that she hadn't learned before.
She said she had reached a point where she realized that she felt stagnant, like she hadn't learned anything new and was watching the world pass her by. She wanted to be challenged. She's starting from scratch - learning how to open and send e-mail messages and exploring computer programs.
She's also discovering how using a computer can open her world. I recently helped her learn how to research airline flights, purchase tickets online and print her ticket and boarding pass from her computer. She nearly cried in happiness. She still often finds the learning process frustrating, but she's excited with each new skill she learns and the pride she feels at having mustered the courage to learn something new is obvious.
What would you like to learn, but are afraid to try' Scuba diving' Painting' Web design' Once you decide what you'd like to learn, look for the outlets to do it.
A side effect of self-improvement is that when you continue learning, you lead by example.
As our young Soldiers, interns, summer hires and children watch us continue to better ourselves; we act as an example for them. We teach them that learning is a continuous process - we never stop.
We further teach them that our goals are attainable if we work toward them, and that there's a joy to learning.
Learning isn't all classroom work. We remember from our childhood that some of the lessons we learned best were from the field trips - that chance to learn by being there and doing that.
Open your eyes, open your mind, and let the learning filter in.