Remember kindergarten? The structure and rigid routine provided a well-defined framework for engagement that stimulated your curiosity and developed your competence. Now you’re old enough to design your own engagement plan tailored to your specific interests. The tools you need for this undertaking are simple: a calendar, a pencil, and an open mind.
Open your calendar and block off thirty minutes each day for the next thirty days to initiate your lifelong learning campaign. Ideally, reserve the same slot every day, but choose a time that fits into your schedule and lifestyle. What and how you want to learn something during those thirty minutes is up to you. You can take up knitting, start reading poetry, or seek out nonfiction books on topics that are fascinating but foreign to you. Spend money on a class or take a free crash course on the internet. The only constraints are thirty minutes of “homework” every day and subject matter that is brand new to you.
Next, block off a two-hour slot each week during this same thirty-day period for acquiring meaningful experiences. Look for opportunities to be an active participant rather than a spectator. Do something like hike in nature or volunteer at a senior center, instead of having something done to or for you, like a pedicure. Perhaps your meaningful experiences will overlap with your lifelong learning campaign, or perhaps they will launch you into entirely different directions. Maybe the experiences will require a financial investment in athletic equipment or a new cake pan. The one requirement is that you make a conscious decision about what you want to do, and then do it.
At the end of the thirty days, assess your approach to engagement. What did and didn’t work? What came more easily to you: learning or experience? Where did you get the most value for the time and money you invested? What can you do better in the future? Like all mindfulness disciplines, lifelong learning and meaningful experiences will deepen and grow with regular practice and commitment — as will your happiness.