I’ve been wondering lately if it’s truly possible to learn from someone else. What I mean is, do we have to experience something on our own, try it our own way—perhaps failing in the process—before we can say we have actually learned something?
Or can we hear a story from someone—maybe our elders or a speaker—or read the history of a community or a nation and garner the lessons they learned for themselves in the living of life and the doing of things? Can we take their word for it so we are not doomed to suffer the same mistakes?
Or can we watch someone, follow them, witness their success and failure, and then come to a conclusion about how to apply this to our own lives? Is their experience enough or do we have to have our own?
Can we really truly learn from someone else?
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Parents teach their children every day. Is it just because they’re impressionable and malleable that they take it all in and believe it as truth? Perhaps these kids haven’t had enough time to form their own opinions and ideas about the way things should be. Or maybe they’ve already figured out their dependence on these big people and know that it’s best to listen or be disciplined. Like Pavlov’s dog, they respond (i.e. learn) so they can be rewarded.
Of course, parenting is also about protection and grooming and so much more. Still, the concept of learning is at the forefront. Whether it’s learning how to walk or tie shoes, to be a kindhearted, loving, giving individual, or to be a productive member of society … it’s still all new to these kids.
So, do they learn from the lessons the parents teach OR do they learn from the example their parents set?
I think it’s a combination of both… and I also think this pattern, this way of learning continues throughout our lives.
If I’ve learned anything from the living of my own life, through observing others, and from reading the stories of our co-authors in our anthology books, it’s that…
– We’re more alike than we are different
– In our alikeness, we’re still quite unique and individual
– We all have different capacities for pain and suffering, pleasure and ease
– There’s no substitute for personal experience as a tool for learning
– The stories and experiences of others can shorten our own learning curve
– People are resilient and strong by nature
Revealing stories that are told with truth, open hearts and depth of feeling serve to shine a light on our own journey. As we read or listen, our brains are constantly asking questions —
“What do I do with this information?”
“What does this have to do with me?”
“What action should I take now that I know this?”
At the same time that the brain is asking these questions, the emotional body is also responding. It is locking the feeling at a cellular level. It is living vicariously through another and having the experience as if it were its’ own.
And that is the power of story.
Of course, we then move on with our own lives… using or disregarding this new information. It always comes down to personal choice. No exceptions.
Yes, we can learn from the experience of another… when we decide to.
What’s your decision?
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About the Author: Sue Urda is an Author, Speaker, Inspirer and Co-Founder of Powerful You! Women’s Network and Powerful You! Publishing. She was named twice on Inc. Magazines list of the 500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies and is the author of three books, Powerful Intentions Everyday Gratitude, Women Living Consciously and Empowering Transformations for Women. Sue’s vision is to contribute to a global consciousness of women helping women succeed in business and in life and to open them to truth of who they are. www.sueurda.com www.powerfulyou.com