The art of learning nothing

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Every day may be an opportunity to learn something new. But we can afford ourselves a break sometimes.

I’ve been tuning out my brain from needing to learn or do too much. Earlier in the month I spent a lot of time reading about Autism, ADHD and the like. Right now, I’m doing very little.

Sometimes our brains need time to properly digest the information we take in. I don’t doubt that my recent bouts of fatigue come from the amount of information I’m still processing about myself. I think my brain is working subconsciously on overdrive, reviewing past moments through this new lens.

I think the least helpful thing I could do right now is cram my brain with more information. Whilst it can be tempting to want to find out more, it’s probably not healthy. My tendency to go into what I now know as a ‘hyperfixation’ can lead me to obsession. Since learning a bit more about Autism, I ended up reading a 300 page book on it within two to three days.

These hyperfixations can be very helpful to get a lot done in a very short amount of time. But it’s also recognising that it’s not an optimal state to always be in – I need downtime between intense periods else I will eventually break down.

So this means accepting that certain periods will be far less about doing or learning. Yet this is easier said than done – there’s a stigma around slowing down, symbolised through overwork and lack of breaks.

The idea that certain periods I will be far less capable is actually quite a scary one. Yet the reality is that we all face these dips and resurgences, even if we don’t feel like we can be totally honest about it. But being honest about them also means that we can ride the peaks and troughs far more successfully. If we’re always trying to be at top performance we’re doomed to crash and burn.

The constant need to learn more can be a real risk. There is always another course, book or workshop with more information. Whilst learning more is not bad in of itself, it can become a distraction from genuinely digesting the information and finding ways to use it in our lives. I fell into this somewhat last year – whilst I do not regret doing the amount of courses I did, towards the end I I was no longer getting much from them because I was so saturated.

So for now I’m not reading anything, learning anything, or really doing anything to develop myself in particular. The only skills I’m improving is my trick combos on Tony Hawks Pro Skater and my bug killing on Helldivers 2 (for democracy).

In a world where there is constant pressure to learn and improve, it’s important to sometimes have a break.

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