Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Lifelong learning

If you asked me to comment in general on the idea of lifelong learning, I'd be all for it. What could be better than continuing stimulus, innovation, self-improvement? In practice, when it comes to my own life, oh dear, I find myself more ambivalent. At best it can be chastening to find there's still so much to learn, at worst alarming and depressing. As I face rather late in life the challenge of self-employment, of learning how to motivate myself, organise my own time, and set my own standards and limits, I find that, where I had imagined only the pleasure of freedom from other people's demands and priorities, there's also a huge hill to climb and unexpected depths to plumb.

There is the pleasure - yes, of course. It even starts to seem already that perhaps there will be enough demand for my work. But if I say yes to everything offered, I'll quickly become just as overtired and stressed and miserable as I was before. Even though it's mostly work I'm better at and enjoy more, if I spend every waking moment on it, this is not the life I want. Where, then, to set the bounds? How much time to hold back for admin work and strategic planning, never mind for time off?

For instance, on Sunday there was a day-long London meditation retreat with Stephen Batchelor. I'd booked and really wanted to attend. Then lots of work came in towards the end of the week and I was tempted to work right through the weekend. Gave myself a stiff talking-to: no! the other things I want to do must get as high a priority as work! So I went to the retreat, and it was rather wonderful - that's another blogpost. I'm so glad I didn't miss this. And it was tiring (three hours travel time too), so I didn't work on Sunday evening as I thought I might. And since then I've been really, really pushed to meet deadlines. Excepting force majeure, I always meet deadlines - no question. The question is: how does this make me feel? and is it what I want? I fear I am not good at judging this. And perhaps, since I'm so new to it, since each of us is clearly different, it can only be learned through painful trial and error.

Well, these are the problems you want to have, friends tell me - and I'd say the same, no doubt, if I was them. They are, of course, the problems I want to have. And then again, they really, really aren't the problems I want to have! I suppose I'd like to have faced and met these challenges long ago. 


Dale said...

Yes, I hear that!

It's going to take some doing to get the volume of work right, and it's going to keep fluctuating between too much and not enough even when we have our systems down, I fear :-)

Still. I'm beginning to suspect that we both of us may have pulled it off!

Jean said...

Dale, you're 5 or 6 years ahead of me - I think you were just finishing your training as a massage therapist when I met you exactly 5 years ago. I have no illusions and know I'm looking at years for this to really work out (or not).

You really pulled it off and I'm sure the fact that it's so clearly what you should be doing didn't mean it was all easy by any means -you're a great inspiration to me!

And, yes, I know the 'feast or famine' syndrome will always be there and both will always have to be dealt with.

Lucy said...

Letting people know that your time is valuable and you are not always available will surely have the effect of their valuing you more and still wanting to give you work! It's a difficult path to tread, of course, and it's very early days still, but it sounds quite promising really.

Loren said...

I suspect that learning to balance the various aspects of your life never stops. While working, I was always a workaholic, a perfectionist in a profession (teaching) that is constantly in flux, where goals change arbitrarily depending on administrations.

Unfortunatley, even in retirement I find myself stressed from arbitrarily imposed deadlines.

Perhaps it's part of my genetic makeup, as both of my parents suffered from the same traits, or perhaps it's an essential part of being human.

I don't expect to resolve the issue entirely until I move to another plane.

Jan said...

Jean, you're right about feast or famine; it's so hard to get the balance right.

I recently turned a job down because I didn't feel I had the expertise for it. A week on, I'm still glad I did. Basically it's so out of character to say "no" that I realise my life has changed.

Good luck with it all.