What are you a student of?

We’re all students of something. Whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not.

A student is someone who studies. “To study” means to observe, to pay attention, to remember, to refine one’s knowledge of a subject.

This description fits everyone. Everyone has their areas of particular interest that they pay attention to, that they refine their knowledge of, that they become experts in.

Many people become students of specific subjects on purpose— they pursue a subject matter in an organized way. They register for classes. They pursue academic degrees.

But even more people become students by accident, or by default. The don’t intentionally choose what they study— they just allow their old patterns, their old beliefs, their old programming decide what they pay attention to, what they refine their knowledge of, what they become experts in.

The subjects in which these unintentional students tend to major run the gamut— but often, “unchosen” courses of study have a way of not serving such students well.

Sometimes people become students of their own limitations. They pay all kinds of attention to what they can’t do; to what hasn’t worked out for them; to what they want and have been denied. They focus, every single day, on the subject of what’s not working in their lives…and sure enough, they become experts in this subject area.

Other times, people become students of the awful state of the world. They focus intensely on the words and actions of politicians and leaders with whom they disagree; on the massive disparities of wealth and resources that exist in parts of the world; on the ways in which the world is unsatisfactory, screwed up, unfair, unkind.

Sometimes people become students of the many ways other people disappoint and infuriate them. They selectively focus on their negative interactions with others; their unsuccessful relationships; the occasions on which they’ve been cheated on, lied to, and hurt.

Understand: I am not suggesting that “life is what you make it with your focus.” That is a worldview frequency advanced by those who harbor the fantasy that we can completely create our world by virtue of what we choose to focus on. While I believe we do exercise an awful lot of control over the experience we create with our focus, far more than we usually appreciate, I also think it’s hopelessly naive to suggest we can create our world from the ground up with our thoughts.

(I also believe this worldview to be flawed in that it encourages people to slip into states of denial in their eagerness to avoid “negative” thoughts that might pollute the world they’re trying to create.)

That said: when we become dedicated students, intentionally or not, we learn our subject areas well.

And when we learn our subject areas well, our pool of knowledge tends to inform our worldview— our attitudes, our beliefs, our behaviors, our level of motivation, our habits.

Do you want your worldview informed by a rigorous course of study in your own limitations; or the awful state the world; or the terribleness of other people?

Think about the shackles that puts on you, as a person.

Think about every time you try to change a habit, to end an unproductive pattern of behavior or begin a healthier pattern— to have, in the back of your mind, a well-studied syllabus of your own limitations. How motivated will you be to change?

Think about every time you consider making a difference in the world, speak out, get involved, positively impact other people— to have, in the back of your mind, a well-learned body of knowledge about how awful the world is. How motivated will you be to try to make a difference?

Think about every time you try to improve your relationships, to reach out, to become more connected to other people— to have, in the back of your mind, a well-worn catalogue of how awful and petty other people are? How motivated will you be to deepen and enrich your ties with other people?

Our studies shape who are are, what we believe is possible, what we can and will do, what we can’t and won’t do.

Ask yourself: what do I study, every day, day in and day out?

What knowledge do I look for? What knowledge do I refine?

What do I know a lot about, because I pay a lot of attention to it?

Are my “studies” serving me? Do my studies nudge me closer to my goals— or throw up obstacles to my goals?

There are some ways we can’t, and don’t, create the world in which we live.

But we can choose what we study.

And we can choose to switch “majors” if we need to.


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