Self-motivation: The endless road of learning

As an adult, no one is going to ask you if you’ve done your homework.

 I COULD not teach them the gifts already intrinsic to them – a sense of wonder, a fantasy world only they could inhabit.  (photo credit: PIXY.ORG)
I COULD not teach them the gifts already intrinsic to them – a sense of wonder, a fantasy world only they could inhabit.
(photo credit: PIXY.ORG)
Maybe the only compensation in this terrible pandemic is that many of us have unusual amounts of time on our hands. What better way to utilize it than to decide on studying something we’ve always been interested in, but never had the time for until now?
The road to learning is endless. Children begin to learn as soon as they are born. They learn from their mother’s songs and the games she plays, the feel of splashing in the bath and the taste of the food they eat. Every day their understanding of language expands, as does their knowledge of the world in which they live and act.
This process continues throughout the kindergarten years, primary school and high school. The lessons we learn are like building blocks, taking us on to higher and higher elevations.
But it is a mistake to think that the learning process ends after childhood. Even when you graduate from school or university, you have not reached the end of the road. A natural love of learning is our greatest possession, one that can go on enriching our lives even into old age.
Learning as adults is a particularly rich experience. Children might go to school reluctantly. It is compulsory, and often they would much rather be out kicking a ball or sprawled in front of television watching cartoons. On the other hand, when an adult decides to take up a new area of learning, or to deepen and advance previous knowledge, it is a voluntary act done from self-motivation, without any coercion whatsoever. 
You can study anything. There are hundreds of professions for which one can re-train; there is religious learning, or the academic study of history, science or language. Even hobbies such as gardening, painting, music and drama can be made more pleasurable as you acquire more in-depth knowledge. The list goes on forever.
Until a few years ago, I had taught creative writing to adults for 40 years, and for me, teaching has always been learning twice over. I hope that my students gained knowledge from me, but in turn I always felt that I learned even more from them. Every student, young or old, male or female, brought with them a fresh perspective and past experiences that were totally new to me.
I COULD TEACH them about the craft of writing and some professional shortcuts to publication, however, I could not teach them the gifts already intrinsic to them – a sense of wonder, and a fantasy world that only they could inhabit, created by their unique imagination. I may have told them how to express it, but the creative process belonged to them. I never ceased to be amazed and delighted at the rich tapestry of words and ideas that sprang forth from a mere suggestion. The creative process is limitless and miraculous. It cannot really be taught but I found it in each student who was really motivated and dreamed of becoming a writer.
Motivation is probably the strongest element needed for success in adult education. Children have to be in school during certain hours. Adults have to find the time to pursue learning in lives that are often already crowded with partners, children, homes, jobs and the innumerable demands society makes on them.
So the next most important element is self-discipline. As an adult, no one is going to ask you if you’ve done your homework. It is up to you to impose the restraints necessary for progress – setting aside the time to do assignments, attending lectures, today even on Zoom, reading, doing research – whatever it takes. I knew I had a potentially successful student when writing was not a chore, but a compulsion; when self-expression provided deep emotional fulfillment. You can always find the time no matter how busy you are, even if it involves getting up earlier or retiring later.
After motivation and self-discipline comes enthusiasm. Choose to study only subjects you love. If you take up a course just because you think you might make some money from it, you will fail. Study of anything requires hard work, and if there is no real dedication or commitment, it will soon become a tiresome chore.
There have never before been so many opportunities for adult education. When I was young, there were neither college courses nor workshops nor the Internet to help ease my way toward realizing my dream of becoming a writer. And that is the fourth essential ingredient for success: Have a dream and work toward it. 
Everything that has been achieved in the world was once just a dream, and we are taught that dreams do not die if they once bloomed in the soul.
The writer is the author of 14 published books. Her latest novel is Searching for Sarah. [email protected]