Welcome to a new year! The calendar says it’s year 2015. But that’s just a number we use to measure and objectify time – that uniquely pervasive and yet elusive part of our existence. And also something we often blame for feeling powerless, frustrated and unfulfilled. Because time is too short, isn’t it? To me, it almost always seems that way, which makes me wonder… Is there something I could change to improve my relationship with time? Why does it feel as if time is never enough? Is this feeling inextricably tied to the human condition, and so it can’t be avoided? I’ve been asking myself these questions for as long as I can remember. For practically-minded people, this may sound like a waste of … time. Which brings me to where I think the problem lies: the mind.
Same as for many people out there, my conscious mind is a demanding companion. Intellectual stimulation makes it happy, whereas stagnation makes it miserable. Yes, it’s that black-and-white, actually. But not that simple to deal with. Because seeking and gauging intellectual satisfaction, especially in the internet-age, is a challenging task. There is so much to learn and to absorb these days, so captivating the knowledge, that time seems shorter than ever, doesn’t it?? Yeah, that’s correct, I got some nagging time issues! But maybe what needs to change is how I learn. Maybe, if I recalibrate the balance between the breadth and depth of my learning, my perception of time will improve. So, I made a decision: turn the scales in favour of depth.
But what’s the difference between broad and deep learning?
Broad learning is pragmatic. You learn that which helps you live and make sense of the world, but not more. It covers a large diversity of topics and information, but doesn’t bring expertise and original thinking. Deep learning, on the other hand, stretches the mind. It requires lengthy and extensive exploration of a narrower range of topics, and it opens the path to mastery and creative thinking. In a manner of speaking, it’s like comparing Wikipedia to the works of Shakespeare. Or general biology with Darwin’s “On The Origin Of Species”. And no, my goal isn’t to emulate Darwin, but simply to feel, at the end of the day, that I have something to substantiate my time.
What could I do differently? It’s probably obvious: avoid spreading myself too thin. Try to be more selective and thorough. Take, for instance, my reading, which is fairly extensive and diverse right now, but feels like it only scratches the surface of ideas. How about if, instead of five Scientific American articles, I only read one, for instance? But choose and read that one article carefully and, if it sparked my interest, pursue the topic to learn even more. That should add quality and depth to my learning, shouldn’t it? Which should give me the feeling of time well-spent, and make my mind happier – Bingo! Problem fixed, but only in theory as yet! I hope you stay tuned to find out how this is working for me.
Cheers for a new year of deeper learning!