What’s on Your Learning Bucket List? By Lauren Handel Zander

I believe it’s important to design all areas of your life. And, I mean ALL. From health to love, to money to community, to fun and adventure to spirituality, etc. But, obviously, some areas get a little more attention than others: like love, career and money. While others, like FUN AND ADVENTURE (which includes LEARNING the things you would love to do), get practically no love at all.

Most of us consider LEARNING a chore that we’re forced to do, like going to school for 12-18 years. And, even once school is out, learning still doesn’t seem to really stop. You’ll start a new job and you’ll have to learn a new management system or computer program. You’ll want to save money, so you will have to learn how to fix the car on your own.

All these types of learning are more out of necessity or obligation than desire.

Truth is, not many of us will make a conscious effort to learn something new for no reason. Why? Well, we have excuses like: we’re too busy. We don’t have the time. We’ve got a job, a partner to spend time with and/or a Netflix subscription, etc. Yes, I get it, but if you believe those excuses, you will never try anything new again. But let me ask you this: is there something you’ve been wanting to learn but you haven’t for whatever reason? If your answer is yes (or maybe), keep reading!

The Dinner That Changed Everything

A few years ago, I was at a dinner party with friends and family. And, whenever my tribe (my close friends and family) sit down together, we come up with a fun, engaging topic of conversation to have during the meal. For example, one night everyone shared their best and worst vacations. Another evening, we shared about a profound moment that changed our lives. Having conversations like these is a great way to spend an evening connecting with your friends and family, while also learning something new about the people in your life.

During this particular dinner conversation, we discussed the following question: “If you had six weeks to learn anything, and you would have to do it everyday for eight hours a day, what would it be?” Everyone’s answers varied: horseback riding, playing guitar, taking a course in cultural anthropology, singing, golf, and mastering a different language.

My answer? Painting.

I’ve always loved to paint, but would only do it once in awhile. This got me thinking. I should schedule time to learn how to paint this summer.

The following week, I purchased painting supplies including brushes, acrylic paints, and several canvases. I was excited, although I was also well aware that I would have to figure out how to design my schedule to fit in painting. After all, I had good excuses. I am married with three kids and run a company. I also was going to have to deal with the fact that I was probably going to suck at painting. And, who wants to do something they are bad at? Not me. That’s when I coached myself to see that it’s healthy to have a good relationship with being bad at something. And, I wasn’t going to be bad for long. I’d probably get better over time and, certainly, over my lifetime.

So, I committed to spending every Saturday morning painting at my friend’s studio. Well, that was 3 years ago and that conversation and subsequent promise changed my life. I now paint at least 4 times a week. I specialize in pointillism (dots), and paint on everything and anything that is put in front of me: canvas, wood, clothes, shoes, purses, hats, wallets. It relaxes me and makes me so happy. It’s not only a hobby for me anymore, I’m now speaking with a company about putting my designs on various merchandise and clothing.

It’s strange to think that had we never had that particular dinner conversation, I may never have started painting or discovered how tickled it made me.

Why not add some flavor to your life by not only having deep, fun and insightful dinner conversations with friends and family this summer, but by LEARNING something new? I promise, it’s worth your time!

Steps to Learning Something New

1) Brainstorm.
Write down all the activities, skills or abilities you wished you had time to do or you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t. Rate them in order of importance.

2) Choose your activity.
Really look at your list and decide what you want to make happen this summer. What would make you happy and proud. This is supposed to be fun and fulfilling for you. If you feel like it’s work, you will resent it.

3) Answer “why are you not doing it?”
It’s something you would love to do and it would make you happy, but for some reason it’s last on your priority list. What is holding you back from learning this new skill or doing this activity? Time? Fear? Face why you’re not doing it and remember, it’s just an excuse.

4) Make a plan.
Find time in your schedule to fit in your new activity every week. Start today. Make promises to do your activity. Implement consequences if you don’t do your promises. If you don’t enjoy your activity, you are allowed to change it! This is not school. This is about learning how to do something you love.

5) Declare an end result.
What do you want to accomplish by the end of the summer with your new activity or skill? For example, if you are learning how to cook, plan a big Labor Day dinner party with close friends and family and plan to you cook the entire meal.

List of potential activities:
Gourmet cooking, speaking a foreign language, guitar, singing, painting, sculpting, photography, making films, writing stories, running, surfing, tennis, biking, golf, swimming, learning yoga, scuba diving certification, genealogy, take a creative writing course, archery, fishing, sailing, juggling, swing dancing, learn to DJ with real records, or water skiing, etc. The possibilities are endless! Get to it! You have two months to learn something new this summer! And who knows, it could end up becoming a big part of your life, like painting became for me.


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Lauren Handel ZanderAbout the Author: Lauren HANDEL ZANDER, Monthly Mentor, is the Co-Founder and Chairwoman of Handel Group®, an international corporate consulting and life coaching company. Her coaching methodology, The Handel Method®, is taught in over 35 universities and institutes of learning around the world, including MIT, Stanford Graduate School of Business, NYU, and the New York City Public School System. Lauren is also the author of Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap, Face Your Fears, Love Your Life (Published by Hachette Book Group, April 2017). Lauren has been a featured expert in The New York Times, BBC, Forbes, Women’s Health, Dr. Oz, and Marie Claire and she is a regular contributor to Businessweek and the Huffington Post. Read More…

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