By Rick Warren
Last month I started a four part series on how to stay mentally fit. That article dealt with guarding access to your mind. This month I am discussing one of the very best ways to stay mentally fit – never stop learning.
Never stop learning. If you want to be a mentally fit person for the rest of your life, never stop learning. Every year there are graduations all over America. Do you remember the feeling you felt the day you walked across the stage and graduated from either high school or college? I remember. I walked across the stage, grabbed my diploma, walked off the stage, threw away my hat and the thought that went through my mind was, “I have completed my education.” Ha! What did I know? If that’s your attitude, if you think you completed your education with your high school diploma or even your graduate degree, you are wrong. There’s no way you can live in today’s world and ever complete your education. Life is a learning process. It is an ongoing thing.
Proverbs 19:8 tells us, “He who loves wisdom, loves his own soul.” If you are continually growing and learning and developing, you’re doing the best thing you can for yourself. You love yourself. That’s proof of it. The fact that you want to learn means that you love your own soul.
What does this have to do with being a Christian? Being a Christian means being part of a lifelong learning process. We talk about the term disciple. The word “disciple” literally means “learner”. If you’re not learning, you’re not a disciple. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” As a Christian, you never stop learning. As a leader, it is even more important to be continually growing, expanding, developing, and learning new insights.
If you’re going to stay sharp for the rest of your life mentally you need three attitudes.
You need the attitude of openness. Proverbs 18:15 (Living Bible) tells us, “The intelligent man is always open to new ideas, in fact, he looks for them.” Intelligent people look for new ideas. They’re open to them.
Who can you learn from? Can you learn from somebody who is younger than you are? Can you learn from somebody who is less educated than you are? Can you learn from somebody who is a different nationality? Are you open to all sources of learning? Can you learn from somebody who’s of a different religion? The truth is, you can learn from almost anybody.
Being open is the key. You must be willing to say “I can learn from anybody, any place, any time.” It will keep you mentally fit for the rest of your life. I have discovered you can learn from anybody if you just know the right questions. We all have different experiences and we can learn from each other as we discuss those experiences.
Openness is often a problem as we get older. We get in a rut, our minds begin to close, and we start using the same tired old excuses:
- We tried that before.
- Our place is different.
- It cost too much.
- We don’t have the time.
- We’ve never done it that way before.
- It’s against company policy.
- That’s not our problem.
- You’re right, but…
- We’re not ready for that.
- It isn’t in the budget.
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
- Let’s form a committee.
- Let’s sleep on it.
- It’s too much trouble to change.
- It’s impossible.
- We’ve always done it that way.
Do you ever find yourself using any of these excuses? If so, beware! Your mind is beginning to close.
A second attitude you need is humility. Proverbs 11:2 tells us, “When pride comes then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” If you want to be mentally sharp, you have to have a humble attitude that says, “I don’t know it all.” One of the major roadblocks to learning is this attitude of “I’ve got it all together. I already know it all.” Pride is a stumbling block to learning.
Winston Churchill said, “I love to learn but I hate to be taught.” Often our ego gets in the way. I love to learn if I don’t have somebody pretending like they know more than I do. I remember when my son was a toddler. His number one response to any situation was always, “Why?”
Do you know why children learn so much? They’re not afraid to ask questions. They’re humble. They know they don’t know it all so they’re inquisitive. They’re alert. They love to learn. Jesus said, “Unless you become as children you cannot have the kingdom of God.” Children have this attitude of curiosity.
As we get older, adults get too worried about appearing dumb. They’d rather not appear dumb than learn. When you were in school you soon learned, “I don’t want to raise my hand for that because everybody will look around and think I don’t know the answer.” And it happens in Sunday School and Bible study. If you’re in a Bible study and say, “I really don’t understand this verse or I have no idea who Nebuchadnezzar is, but I don’t want to raise my hand because what will other people think?”
It happens in the area of leadership. As leaders, we are often expected to know it all. To admit that we do not, and ask for help, can be tough at times.
To grow in life, you have to have an attitude of openness and of humility. I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day. He said, “This experience I’ve been through is very humbling but I’ve learned a lot from it.” That’s it. Whenever we’re humbled, we always learn. The Bible tells us, With humility comes wisdom.”
You need enthusiasm. Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, do it heartily [with all your heart] as unto the Lord and not as unto men.” When you have a task, something you’re going to do, put your mind to it. Be enthusiastic about it.
Which classes did you learn the most from when you were in school? The ones you were the most enthusiastic about. You liked them. We learn faster when we are enthusiastic, when we participate, when we’re not just spectators. We don’t sit on the sidelines but we get involved.
If you want to be mentally fit, wake up in the morning with the attitude, “Lord, teach me something new today. Help me to be mentally alert. Lord, I realize that there are some tremendous experiences in life that You’re going to create and design just for me today. Help me to learn from those things.”
Join me next month as I look at some more things you can do to stay mentally fit.
Rick Warren is the Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of several internationally bestselling books, including The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life.