Some years ago, I was part of a Fellowship programme where we were taken through a session on strengths-based leadership. I am usually very skeptical of these self-help kind of polls which give you a verdict after making you answer a long questionnaire. The report of this session was given in the form of a document which enlisted one’s top five strengths. And I gave a whoop of delight when I received mine. Suddenly I was not skeptical anymore. On top of that list was one word: Learner.
I just felt it described me perfectly. And as I read through the description, a lot more began to make sense. It said: “You will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence.”
This morning I remembered this and pulled out the document. Suddenly a lot of things began to make sense. I have always enjoyed learning, and it never means skimming through something superficially. So if I was attracted to birds that ventured to my terrace, I would bother to read details about them. If I began wearing sarees, I would need to know the intricacies of the weaves and their history. If I am cooking a dish, it never is from one recipe. I usually explore a few of the same kind and make my own variations. And this process of learning was dynamic. I shifted from topic to topic, once something no longer captured my attention.
Somewhere in the last few months, work began to overwhelm me. There were deadlines looming large and I felt stagnant. There was no excitement. I didn’t feel like writing my blogs. I felt I was getting too repetitive. To say something new, your mind needs to find fuel. You need to read. You need to learn. So there has been this conscious decision to explore something outside your terrain.
The know-it-all world of medicine is full of itself. This attitude is transferred from seniors, and the grind of the curriculum kills empathy within graduate students. Specially when you are buried under thick tomes, hard-pressed to read anything other than medical textbooks. Learning demands an exploration of fields outside your own. By not exploring the world of humanities and arts, ethics and anthropology, culture and tradition, we kill humanity within a doctor, and turn them into scalpel-wielding cold beings. Medicine needs to shed its superiority complex and learn from the worlds that surround it. A doctor without hobbies doesn’t augur well in a world which needs understanding and kindness.
The last three months have been spent well. There is satisfaction in exploring worlds beyond the narrow walls of my subject. Learning is much easier now. The options are boundless. You can view, read or listen. Access to information comes at the tap of a button. And it is possible to broaden your horizons and learn more than what is delivered to you on a platter.
Learning also reminds you of your nothingness in this universe of unfathomable vastness. It reduces the weight in your cranium telling you that the world can go on without you. And that you need to enjoy the pace of living and learning, without being an Atlas crushed under the weight of expectations.