It’s often said we learn something new every day. But do we? If we don’t apply what we’ve learned, then hasn’t the lesson failed?
Last week I saw a patient who has macular degeneration. Although his eye disease has been stable for years, this checkup revealed it had gotten much worse. He’s done all the right things:
- Vitamin therapy with a proven product
- Not smoking
- UV protection in his glasses
- A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens
- Regular checkups for testing of the eye health and vision
But when I told him he needed a retinal specialist, he refused to go. I explained that if he wanted to save his vision, he didn’t have a choice.
I taught him the importance of proper care, and scheduled his appointment with the retinal specialist.
I don’t know if he will go or not. In the past, he did learn what to do about his macular degeneration, and he applied what he learned.
But this latest situation was a new lesson. I explained the change in his eye disease and the steps needed to protect his vision. It was a new opportunity to learn. Will he apply what he learned again? Or will he refuse to get additional treatment and end the lesson?
What About You?
The most important part of any lesson is in the application. If we don’t apply the lesson, have we really learned anything?
There are several reasons we might not apply what we’ve learned. Some are external and I’ll cover those in a future post.
There are also important internal reasons we might fail to apply a good lesson. Here are three:
Beliefs. Everything we’ve learned affects our beliefs, and our beliefs affect everything we’ll learn in the future. Studies show we’re programmed to listen to and learn from people and sources that support what we already believe. We might refuse a lesson if it doesn’t agree with our beliefs. So our beliefs may cause us to ignore good teaching. As the adage goes, don’t believe everything you think.
Bias. Studies show we have a natural bias towards negativity and mistrust. Just knowing this means you can decide to listen to a lesson, learn from it, and apply it to your life. As an example, a high school teacher of mine once told me optometry was a dying profession. Briefly, so did I. But when I finally opened up enough to find out for myself, I discovered a world of new people and possibilities.
Fear. Vision is our most precious sense, and many people fear losing it. I can see how someone might be afraid a certain visual lesson might not “work.” And many of my patients fear hearing the worst. In this case, it helps to think about the “opportunity cost.” In other words, what do you risk if you don’t apply the lesson? For example:
- Those computer glasses have a cost, but so does eye strain and loss of productivity.
- Regular trips to the retinal specialist are troublesome, but losing vision is much more so.
- Eating healthy seems difficult, but what about recovering from heart surgery?
These are just a few reasons we might find it difficult to apply what we’ve learned. Or, they may make us think what we’ve learned isn’t valuable enough to apply in the first place.
One way to overcome each one is to be more open. Slow down and think. Recognize your internal tendencies. Be willing to consider a new person, new idea, or new lesson on its own merits, rather than against what you already believe.
We’re complex people, and the three reasons above barely scratch the surface. Stay tuned for future posts where I’ll detail some external factors that can influence our learning. And, I’ll reveal the secrets to applying what you’ve learned in any situation.