Learn to unlearn and relearn in order to move forward in the digital age

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Learn to unlearn and relearn in order to move forward in the digital age

The other day I was having a discussion with some job seekers about the challenges and expectations of today’s working world. They all seemed to be ambitious and keen to learn new skills related to their relevant job fields and all seemed eager to move forward. However, at some point in the discussion I recognized a low energy cloud spreading over the group. All of a sudden they all went quiet. OK, I thought, then let us give this silence some space, so I invited them to close their eyes and concentrate on the topic occupying their mind. I advised them to stay with it and to breath into it, what ever it was, for a while. If they wanted to they could talk about it in the group afterwards.

After a few silent moments I invited them to “unload” and to discuss their topics. One of them took a deep breath and said: “First of all thank you so much for these moments of silence. It was just what I needed. I do not know about the others, but me personally, I just have too much on my mind, too much information, too much new learning, too much of everything. I am eager to learn, but often I have the feeling that there is just no more space in my brain and I do not know what to do about it.”

He seemed to have brought up a topic, which was of concern for all them. They all started to discuss their pains and difficulties, but also their strategies in terms of unlearning and learning. Suddenly there was such a powerful discussion going on. The power of silence – I thought…

One thing none of them brought up was the aspect of creating space for the new information and giving it time to sink in. They all seemed to have built up strategies and ways to learn new things, while their minds were still full and overloaded with a lot of the old content, content which has no more use.

They seemed to be holding on to skills and experiences, which, for many years had been of use to them in their last job, but which were no longer of any use. To give you an example, they recognized that they kept talking about past experiences, which were no longer relevant to the present nor to the future.

I rounded up our discussion by creating a circle in the middle of the floor to symbolize ‘white space’. I then invited them to write on pieces of paper, the skills, experiences and habits that they believed no longer had any relevance to their professional future. These pieces of paper were placed outside the circle and the circle itself was left empty. The empty circle in the middle symbolized the new room and space that they had created for new learning and relearning. They liked the idea of creating space and promised to explore and deepen this concept individually.

So in order to learn and relearn, you first need to unlearn and create space. The unlearning process can start once we have adopted the mindset that we need to develop new skills, abilities and experiences. When we understand why we are making this commitment, then we need to concentrate on how to achieve our goal. I believe that the key to unlearning is to adopt the mindset that we need to let go of old ideas, skills and experiences that are no longer of any use. Unlearning and creating ‘white space’ opens doors for creativity and encourages new, innovative valuable and exciting ideas.

Let’s keep in mind what Alvin Toffler, the American writer, futurist and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies once said: “The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” 

So take the courage to keep creating ‘white space’ and embrace the concept of unlearning in order to move forward and succeed.

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