All behaviour is learned, but not all learned behaviours are good, or even helpful – Egheosa R Owie
Hello and welcome to another chapter in Raven’s Odyssey.
The topic today is unlearning and relearning. I can’t be the only one who has realised at different points in their life, that they have acquired some unhealthy/unhelpful behaviours, attitudes and beliefs, which does more harm than good in their life. With the current pandemic, more and more people are realising the importance of unlearning negative behaviours and relearning more positive behaviours. I have been on this journey, since I decided to take a gap year before starting graduate entry medicine, and my soul-search, reflection and self-improvement were definitely amplified while I was in Lockdown.
So how do you unlearn a behaviour, mindset, attitude, etc?
From my experience, it starts with focusing on and unlearning the negative thoughts you have. Most behaviours especially toxic behaviours, may have actually been created and strengthened because they protected us. They most likely helped you stay safe, sane and feeling protected during particularly difficult and traumatising times. And once that difficulty passes, and you are no longer in that traumatic situation, you start to lean on them, believing that is who you are, not knowing that is a distorted version of you.
The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates
It often takes another difficult or traumatic situation, before you start to think and realise that this behaviour, mindset or attitude you have, does not serve you. It does not help you grow, and it actually does not help you get out of difficulties, sometimes it can even make them worse. Before you find yourself at rock bottom, trying to pull yourself up with an army of harmful thoughts and behaviours, you can get ahead of it and actually listen to the thoughts you have and question them. When you are with that colleague and find yourself feeling slighted by a harmless joke, ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way” “is it really because of what he/she said” or “how I am feeling about myself”. “am I projecting” “am I misinterpreting his/her intentions” look at the situation from a different perspective and think about how a stranger would interpret that situation. Being introspective and being able to give yourself the true answers definitely takes time and practice, but there are things you can do to aid that along further. You can meditate (lots of mindfulness apps and YouTube videos out there), you can just find moments of silence and calm (taking a bath, before bed, or just any 5- 10 mins of peace and quiet that you are able to give yourself)
I cannot emphasise how important and useful it is to read widely and extensively. Do not limit yourself to one genre, and do not feel bad or weak for picking up a self help book, or a book to improve your skills, refine them or change them. There are so many options for reading, especially if you live in the western word. But tbh I found that I actually read more when I lived in Nigeria. At school, we would often exchange books. It was a great way to make friends and to learn how to communicate, negotiate and even save as everyone had at least one book so I used to read hundreds in a year, without needing to buy any more books as there were so many people to exchange the same books with.
There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance – Socrates
Research! Research can get you anywhere in life and teach you anything you want to know. That is a fact as far as I am concerned. It worked for me. The only reason I am in medical school without knowing anyone in the healthcare profession, is because I researched. Google became my best friend, and that continued even into improving my life. Whenever I noticed personal qualities I didn’t like, I researched how to change them. There are so many blogs, news articles, free research studies, YouTube videos, even podcasts nowadays that enable to learn and improve anything you want for free. Utilise them
Write down what you want to achieve and why. Keep a diary and write down your aims, goals and aspirations. Your present thoughts and feelings and the thoughts and feelings you desire to have. What you have learned so far and what you hope to unlearn and subsequently improve. Writing it down clears it from your mind, allows you to keep track of what you want to achieve, helps with the next steps, and you can always look back at it, to see how far you’ve come, and how far you can continue to go, as long as you stay dedicated to self-improvement
True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us – Socrates
4) Monitor your self. Be your own parent
Just like with the above, you need to monitor yourself and ensure that you are actually following through with what you have unlearned and learned. You may find yourself going back to old habits, because at the end of the day it is familiar and can be comforting. That is exactly why you need to be your own parent when that happens, and kick yourself out of that unhelpful behaviour, into the behaviour that you know you want.
5)Reflect, reflect, reflect
Reflecting is an underrated activity. In medical school, we have to write a lot of reflective essays to aid in our learning, help us continue to improve, keep us accountable, remind ourselves of and learn from our mistakes, etc,. While as an assignment, this can become very taxing and boring, being able to reflect on your life, behaviour and experiences, is an underrated skill that is guaranteed to bring success and the lasting change that you seek. Reflect always, and you can conquer and achieve any growth, behaviour and mindset that you seek
6) Practice and push yourself out of your comfort zone
following up from monitoring yourself, you have to ensure that you are acquiring the behaviours, mindsets and attitudes that you seek, and the only way to do that, is by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and into situations that will elicit that response. Comfort zones are just that, a zone of comfort, and the only reason you are here is to take yourself out of that place of comfort, and into the place of growth, success, and achievement that you know you deserve. So keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and practicing the skills and behaviour you hope to cement into your life. You will get there
We all need to be more vulnerable and willing to have deep, personal conversations with those we know and trust and sometimes even those we don’t know. I personally find a lot more value, in being able to communicate and be vulnerable with others, than in sticking to the tight-lipped state that I was in. Communication also helps us realise and see, that we are not the only ones dealing with our particular problems, and often, other people might be just the solution we need. A problem shared is a problem half solved, so you have to become open with communicating and being vulnerable to people. But ensure you only start doing this with people you trust, as sometimes this can lead to more harm than good. Be open, but also be smart
The easiest and noblest way is not to be crushing others, but to be improving yourselves – Socrates
8) Be willing and open to learning
This will most likely happen as you unlearn, as the nature of unlearning often requires you to learn that something you are doing, thinking or believing is wrong. Either for you or for others. But you can move that step along by using that opportunity to learn a better way of doing things/ thinking/approaching problems. You can do this the exact same way you unlearned. By opening yourself up to new things and opportunities, taking chances, communicating with people, reading, research, writing, setting practical goals, practicing the new things you have learned, monitoring yourself to ensure that you do not fall back to old ways., etc. You can go beyond that and add anything you do, that helps you learn. I 100% believe that being open to learning, is the best thing we can do for ourselves, especially while trying to unlearn
It is better to change an opinion than to persist in a wrong one – Socrates
That is all I have to say about unlearning and relearning for now. I hope you enjoyed this post, and will take at least one or two things I have said with you. I definitely encourage everyone to embrace unlearning and learning with open arms. Be willing to accept that sometimes you are wrong, don’t have all the right information or are approaching things in a way that doesn’t serve you. That is definitely one of the most important steps in unlearning and learning.
Comment below and let me know hat qualities, behaviours and attributes are you trying to unlearn and improve for the better? I am personally trying to unlearn how bad i have become at texting and responding to my friends.
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See you on the next one
Peace and Love,