When We Stop Learning


Many years ago a colleague and I were having the classic “can you believe how fast this year has gone by?” conversation, when she said something that has stuck with me.

“You know why time goes by faster as we get older, don’t you, Carlos? Because we’re not learning anymore.”

Surely she doesn’t know it, but what she probably thought was just a simple observation about “time flying” turned out to be a lesson that I have returned to on a consistent basis.

When I think about her statement, I consider that for roughly the first 25 years of our lives most of our time is spent learning. Learning comes in all forms during those years, from the learning we do as children as we observe and experience the world around us, to formal education, to on the job training and everything in between. You could argue that our principle task during these years is in fact, LEARNING.

As we settle into our careers, our family lives, and the years beyond our first quarter century, we have a tendency to veer from the kind of learning that took place early in our lives. This is a perfectly natural process as new experiences stop coming at us on a daily basis, and we start to favor routine.

Surely we can’t dedicate the kind of time we once dedicated to learning in our early lives. In a sense, learning becomes the thing that gets in the way of our lives instead of the other way around.

This is when we stop learning. It gets inconvenient, it gets in the way, and sometimes, it’s just more work than we’re willing to put into it.

I get it. I’m just as guilty as anyone. It’s asking a lot most days to focus on getting better. But it’s not something any of us can afford to ignore.

Although the world is constantly changing, change itself doesn’t come at us at the speed it once did in our lives. We don’t start each week, month, or year preparing to take on completely new concepts at nearly the pace we did in our younger years, and that gives us an incredible advantage when it comes to learning.

Learning for us most of the time, then, isn’t so much about wrapping our mind around a universe we didn’t know existed until we experienced it. Rather, learning is about tweaking the way we perceive the world we already know. It’s about adding to things that have already been built.

And that gives us an amazing opportunity to grow. That is of course, if we choose to do so.


Image credit: “11042010(003)Lori” by X.narine – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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