by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

“What is something you would learn if you had the chance,” the survey question asked. I was stumped. I eventually thought of one answer — snow ski — but I still can’t believe how tough a question this was for me. And now I’m asking myself, “Why did I have trouble coming up with an answer?” Besides, surely I could think of more than one answer to such a question!

Do we ever learn all there is to learn?

As babies, we begin our lives with a big new world before us. Throughout our childhood years — truly — the world is our classroom. Our curiosity inspires our sense of adventure and keeps us expanding our abilities and honing our skills. The search to discover our talents seems inexhaustible and exciting. Throughout our school years we read, think, wonder, consider, explore — learn.

I’ve been out of school for many years now. Has something changed during my adult years that made me stop thinking about learning?

I came across some statistics that are almost impossible to believe could be even remotely accurate. (

• One-third of high school graduates in the U.S. never read another book for the rest of
their lives.

• Forty-two percent of college graduates in the U.S. never read another book after college.

• Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy a book or read a book last year.

• Seventy percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

• Fifty-seven percent of new books are not read to completion.

And yet 120,000 new book titles are published each year in the U.S. ( I know my daughter buys at least a hundred of those new books every year! I can’t say that I do the same.

I’ve read that entrepreneur, Bill Gates, attributes his success to his desire to never stop learning. In fact, Gates once said, “Every now and then I like to pick up a copy of Time Magazine and read every article from beginning to end, not just the articles that interest me most. That way you can be certain to learn something you didn’t know previously.”

I can see how success in life is connected with our willingness to stay open-minded and teachable. This means that throughout our lives we continue to ask questions, imagine the possibilities, and stay open to change, improvement, growth, progress.

One can also see how ignorance leads to fear. People are often afraid of what they don’t understand and what they’re not familiar with — what they have no knowledge of. So some people are afraid to learn something new if they think it will lead to changes from what they know and take them out of their comfort zone.

When people stop learning or stop wanting to learn or trying to learn or start believing they have nothing to learn, they cease to make progress. And without progress, there is no life. At the very least, life becomes less interesting.

Perhaps learning is a habit. And like some other good habits such as eating a balanced meal, exercising or praying daily or studying the Bible, we get lazy or negligent. And our laziness and negligence becomes a bad habit that is difficult to break — but not impossible. Any bad habit can be broken with due diligence and perseverance and good habits can be created and maintained in the same way.

Gandhi’s words, “Learn as if you would live forever, live as if you would die tomorrow,” tell us there is always more to learn and we should learn as much as we can each day. It is never too late to learn something new. I’m beginning to learn that the old adage — “Practice makes perfect!” — is always true regardless of our age.

I suspect I’m not the only one who is learning there is much more to learn. I know I need to learn to love more, to have more trust, to be more patient. I need to learn how to relax more, listen better, and forgive. Yes, there is much more I need and want to learn.

“A wise man…will increase learning.” (Proverbs 1:5) I want to be a wise woman! So my new approach to each day is going to begin with the questions, “What can I learn today?” Or better still, “What does God want me to know today?” I may not know what I want or need to learn, but God has infinite possibilities for all of His children. We can trust that God will direct us to exactly what is best each day.

And maybe some winter, I will learn to snow ski! Why not?