Last week my mother received a small round of applause from the librarians when she returned the final volume of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. She may be the only one this century in her small town to have read the entire work. In her retirement, she is reading books, watching documentaries, and continuing her lifelong studies. Her love of learning was clearly passed down to me, and as a psychologist, I see lifelong learning as a value in our field as well. At our midyear reflection on our work, my Counseling Center staff commented that we are committed to continuing to learn in order to maintain the quality of our services, but they also commented that they just enjoy learning. What is it about learning that you love?
When you take the Gallup Strengths Finder, you are provided with your top five strengths, and three of mine are Ideation, Intellection, and Learner (the other two are Achiever and Relator). This means I could come up with ideas all day long and that I love to think about ideas and learn just for the sake of thinking and learning. If I didn’t have Achiever in my top five, I might struggle to complete any projects! In any case, my answer to what I love about learning is “nearly everything.”
Becoming President of OPA, I worried that I didn’t know enough about all aspects of psychology in Ohio, but I’ve found that it’s been a joy to learn more (and that, thankfully, I don’t have to know it all). This year, I’ve learned more about challenges in getting reimbursed, about what a quality worker’s compensation evaluation includes, and about the many aspects of the opioid crisis.
I find myself curious about local and statewide efforts to improve the well-being of children by increasing the number of school psychologists (there is a severe shortage), by subsidizing childcare, and by cleaning up the lead problem in our housing here in Cleveland. This year our OPA Board includes several members who work with children or in children’s settings, and I’m curious to learn more about their perspectives on these urgent concerns that appear to have bipartisan support. How might we use this opportunity to be proactive in our work to improve the lives of Ohioans?
These are the kinds of questions our OPA Board wants to discuss this year. At our last Board meeting, we took a critical look at how we spend our time during meetings and decided to experiment with a different type of agenda. This spring we will be alternating our focus from business items in one month to a broader discussion of more strategic issues the next month. We want to do a good job of anticipating the challenges and opportunities facing our field and the public and guide our association to lead more proactively. This change also allows all of us to learn how to frame and participate in these broader discussions. As we try something new, not yet knowing quite how it will work out, I feel the excitement/anxiety that comes with learning a new skill and working at my edge. As a Board, we are practicing what Sandra Shullman calls “learning leadership” as we learn the situation and the skills while leading.
Of course, not all learning is joyful. As I talk with people who face significant challenges at work or who have intense caregiving responsibilities with family who have health concerns, I know that learning we wouldn’t choose is sometimes imposed on us by life. When life has given me challenges and lessons that go beyond a healthy stretch, I’ve heard myself say, “well, I’m learning a lot” as a way to look on the bright side. But much of the time lately, I’ve been able to choose what and when I learn, and then the experience is mostly joyful. In this new year, I wish for each of you to come through challenging times and to have moments – or years or decades – of joyful learning.