Thursday, November 17, 2011

Learn to Understand

Ponder...
Cancer gave me tumors in my body, lesions on my bones, and scars on my skin. It filled my blood with chemicals, my stomach with pills, and my eyes with tears.

And that was the easy part...

Understanding what my cancer journey was teaching me was another story.

Growing up I looked at the learning process as more of a chore than something to take seriously. I was more interested in playing sports than cracking books, but did what it took to keep my parents, coaches, and teachers happy. My parents told me the minimum grades I could get were B's and turned it into a nifty jingle worthy of an auto insurance commercial:

"No B's, no keys"

I was a good enough student to earn student athlete awards, but not good enough for honors classes. It wasn't until second semester my freshman year at the University of Michigan during a bout with mononucleosis (a precursor to Hodgkin's Lymphoma) I realized I was smart and, more importantly, actually enjoyed the process of learning.

Doctor's orders for mono were to get loads of rest, minimize activity, and eat what you can get down your sore, sore throat until healthy. With this in mind I structured my days around going to class, doing my homework, and ordering an insane amount of Frosties from the Wendy's at the Student Union.

Sorry Mom...

The key to me finding my capacity as a student was really understanding the material and not just cramming it into my head the days before an exam. I did all the assigned readings, asked questions in class, and went to office hours if I needed to clarify something in my brain.

In effect, I took apart the concepts, saw how they worked, and then reassembled the information in my head so I understood them and it became intuitive. When it came time for quizzes, tests, or essays the material was second nature to me and naturally the grades followed. And to be honest, I began to care less about the grade on the paper and more about the challenge of understanding things that peaked my interest.

I found that the two critical components of the learning process are to Ask effective questions and Listen intently. The intersection of these two activities is where the proverbial "magic happens" and you Understand (see visual above).

People ask me if I thought "Why me?" when I got my cancer diagnosis and the answer is yes.

I asked it a lot...

But I listened even more because I wanted to grow as a person from my cancer experience.

Effective self-reflection is the process of asking yourself a lot of hard questions and listening to the answers that are out there in books, conversations, reflection, songs, therapy sessions, etc.

Only when you take yourself apart, figure out how you work, and put yourself back together in a manner that is intuitive to you will you truly understand your potential.

As for what my cancer journey taught me?

It taught me that each moment holds an opportunity to Lift your life towards maximum fulfillment.

Are you ready to start Lifting yours?

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