Learning to unlearn

As we adjust to a new reality, will one of the things that changes be our understanding of ‘change’ itself? Dr Asma Naheed, DEdPsy, looks to the future

The word ‘change’ features in every other inspirational quote. It drops blithely from the mouths of world leaders. It forms part of mantras taken up by celebrities. And it provides the backdrop to many a media campaign. Once, the meaning of the word was individual; today, it is universal.

While we have been cooped up indoors, the outside world has undergone irreversible transformations. Things will not be the same; people will not be the same; countries will not be the same. Our perception will not be the same. The way we interact and the way we live our lives will be different.

For once – regardless of our profession, expertise, skills, age, gender or location – we all are in the same boat. Old habits, social skills and cultural norms have had to be adjusted. But it will be a challenge to unlearn so much of what we know, and to discover and grow accustomed to the new normal.

So how do we unlearn? How do we let go of things and habits that we have gathered over a lifetime?

Imagine a full cup. To unlearn feels like emptying that cup and refilling it with something else – perhaps something better. Same cup, different drink.

So what is the value of emptying the cup? The obvious benefit is creating space for new knowledge – recognising and stopping the stifling mindset that is manifested unintentionally when we feel we know everything. That’s the ‘This is how I’ve always done it’ syndrome. We need to rid ourselves of old ideas that are no longer appropriate in the new future. Collective unlearning, and learning something new, will keep us innovative, safe and alive. It’s survival. Being afraid to adapt means getting swept away by a tide of change.

This year has given us an opportunity – indeed, an invitation – to rethink and redefine what’s important and what’s not. This will have an impact across the board: from governments and businesses down to our own communities.

It could be our chance to pave the way for a happier and healthier life, for us and future generations. It is a change in our understanding of ‘change’.

Here are few things that, I believe, will happen as the world reopens:

Our romance with capitalism and
hyper-individualism will end. We will,
I hope, understand what is possible
through working together.

We will adopt a fast-tracked and
healthier digital lifestyle

Science, rather than politics,
will reign.

The value of healthcare will get
due respect.

An opening for a stronger family bonding

Family bonding can be stronger.

There will be less eating out and more cooking at home.

Reliance on a strong domestic
supply chain will be greater.

Minimalism will be a celebrated lifestyle.