Learn, Unlearn and Relearn – What Does it Mean to You?

If you have been around here for a while, you will know I am quite a curious person and have been on a search for many years to increase my own wisdom. Over the years, one thing I have noticed is that learning quite often doesn’t turn in to change (well maybe it is just me?). In oder to truly learn, we need to unlearn or empty the cup.


The Quote by Alvin Toffler – Learn, Unlearn and Relearn

As a registered teacher, I have heard the following quote from a few colleagues over the years –

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ” ~ Alvin Toffler

Whilst I was researching for this journal post, I tried to find the original reference of the quote. I couldn’t find it, however I did find the following from Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock

“…. can be used to enhance human adaptability. By instructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn a powerful new dimension can be added to education.” (p 415).


One of My Adventures of Learning, Unlearning and Relearning

On your adventure through life, have you ever discovered that you learnt something as a child, however as you progressed through life you started questioning what you had learnt? Then later on found you needed to untangle what you had learnt as those thoughts or beliefs were no longer serving you and you decided to relearn a new way of being?

For me, one of my own adventures of learning, unlearning and relearning centred around being enough. Yep growing up, I loved playing tennis and as time went on, I ended up being quite good at it. I competed around the world and became professional. I played in three of the four Grand Slam Tournaments and won ten ITF Singles Titles and over two hundred other local, state, national and international titles. Throughout that time, I accumulated a lot of “stuff” (i.e. other people’s beliefs and perceptions as well as my own).

After I retired I felt like I hadn’t done enough. Why? Because, I hadn’t achieved one of my bigger goals and therefore I believed I was a failure. Over time as I developed self-awareness, I realised I had a deep sense of unworthiness. It took me many, many years of unlearning (i.e. untangling beliefs and distorted thinking) to realise that I had done my best as a tennis player. Fortunately now (after many years of mindfulness, journaling, self-compassion and other practices), I can say even say it out loud that I did my best in tennis.

What I am grateful for is that I learnt about this concept of learn, unlearn and relearn and did the work. I know now that tennis was what I did as a profession and it is not what I am (and that is one of the biggest gifts about the unlearning / untangling process) 🙂


Learn, Unlearn and Relearn – What Does it Mean to You?

How does learn, unlearn and relearn relate to you in your life? What does it mean for you? Feel free to share your insights below in the comments box.

A little story I love about the unlearning process can be found in the book entitled Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings.

“Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?””


Over to You…

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And if you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heart, why not join our Toolkit?


Reference –

Toffler, A. (1984). Future Shock. New York, USA: Bantom Books.

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