I stumbled upon this interesting question the other day : Why do we quit things so easily when we grow up as opposed to when we were children?
I am a teacher. I work with children everyday and I get to observe children closely on a regular basis.
You Are The Biggest Obstacle In Your Path
The answer to the above question is actually quite simple. As we grow older, we get in our own way of learning things. Children don’t have that problem.
What that means is, children are like relatively empty vessels. They don’t yet have a huge idea of the self or a complex self image to sustain. Their ego is just forming and is not as big yet, so there is room for other things in the mind. And they don’t get in their own way. The path of learning is clear.
Adults on the other hand, have very little space left in their mind because of the size of their gigantic egos and a constant stream of thoughts about relevant and irrelevant things.
As adults, when we fail at something, our ego gets hurt badly. Even tiny failures upset us easily. That’s because bigger the ego, easier it is to hurt. A good analogy could be a balloon. The bigger it is, the more inflated, the easier it is to burst at the prick of a needle.
That is precisely the reason why it is so much more difficult for an adult to learn swimming or cycling as opposed to kids. A kid will fall off the bike ten times and get back up the eleventh time. He won’t make a big deal out of the ten falls. An adult will fall off three times and quit. Concluding that either they are not good enough to learn the thing or the thing is not worth learning.
Do We Get Slower In The Learning Game?
It is not that our capacity to learn new things takes a plunge as we grow older, it is just that we associate everything with our identity. Our idea of “who we are”. We associate everything with our ego and self image. Even the little failures along the path of learning something new affect us tremendously because our ego hates failures and doesn’t want to get down from its high horse of pride.
We get in our way of learning new things as adults. If we can manage to get out of our own way, we can learn as fast and as well as children do.
The Child’s Approach To Learning
Another thing is that the approach of children towards learning new things is different: playfully curious. They don’t have an intrinsic goal attached to the intention of learning a new thing. They learn new things for the thrill of learning things. They don’t look at the process of learning a new thing as a task to be completed. Rather, they view this process as a new experience to live. Somewhere along the path of growing up, we lose that golden attitude of learning.
Adults learn things to achieve.
Consequently, they become rigid in their approach to learning. Learning requires one to be flexible and open. And children don’t have a staunch belief system to protect. New things don’t challenge their egos or rigid ideas. They are more open and playful in their approach to new things. So, learning happens easily and naturally.
Think of it this way, the adult mind is like a road with heavy traffic. The traffic of thoughts. Fully saturated with vehicles of different types. For adults, learning becomes as difficult as driving on a busy road.
The mind of a child is like a freeway unlike an adult mind, the mind of a child is not congested with a constant stream of never ending thoughts. For a child, learning is as easy as driving on a freeway.
So, if you want to go back to that lucid, flexible stage of learning, just clear the traffic of unnecessary thoughts and ideas. Drop rigid belief systems and inflexible ideas. Be open. And have the courage to get out of your own way.