No matter what level of education you are at or have reached, what you have learned has primarily been chosen by someone else and tailored for their own aims. Seldom was the aim to enrich you as a person–or to provide you with the right knowledge to guide you on your journey to becoming a content and fulfilled person. That choice is entirely up to you, however, and you can take steps in the direction of a self-learner.

On a personal level, I didn't become a self-learner to become a self-learner. I simply fell in love with the act of reading and reflecting on myself, which happens to be the best way I've found to take learning into my own hands. This is where I learned the majority of what I have found valuable in life because I made the choices to seek out particular books and sources of material, as well as what little bits of information I would apply to my own life.

For example, I recently read Ruiz's "Four Agreements, in which it is written: "How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. Every time we remember, we judge ourselves again, we are guilty again, and we punish ourselves again, and again, and again."

Moving on from my mistakes is a difficult task, particularly as I tend to ruminate--and as I do, I continue to punish myself ruthlessly. This small passage had the power to shift my thoughts in a direction that allowed for forgiveness, understanding, and acceptance of myself and what mistakes I've made.

This is where I learned what I want to do with my life. I know that I take joy in considering the intricacies of how we think, why we think what we do, and how to make changes in our thought processes for the better, so I decided that I am headed towards a career in psychotherapy. In conjunction with what I love, this career is perfectly aligned with my lifestyle preferences. Without the pursuit of self-learning, I would have followed a different path.

For the longest time, I believed that path was the best one for me, but it turns out it's better aligned with what others want me to be instead of who I am. In all likelihood, I would have found ways to ease the places of myself that clashed with this certain career; however, it isn't worth it in the long run when I'm much better suited for a different destination. So many people questioned my decision to pursue psychotherapy, but I remembered what a mentor once told me: "Once you know what you want, don't let anyone tell you otherwise." And this is what I want.

I think the largest shift came when I looked over all the books I had collected on my shelf: there were the books I loved and the books I wanted to love, similar to the self I should love (the real me) and the self I wanted to be. All the books that I loved most told me about human minds and taught me about what it means to think, believe, behave, everything. Yet I was still afraid to accept what I had learned on my own. It's hard to stop listening to the people you've always listened to and really think on a different level.

Here's a quote that changed my perspective. This is from one of Steve Jobs' talks: "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked, there is no reason not to follow your heart." Everyone taught me otherwise: I had a hell of a lot to lose. The education system tells you to put your head down and do what you're supposed to do--or else! I was taught that if I could pursue a career with more prestige, wealth, and respect, then I should. And I was also taught that agreement and compliance with authority figures are preferred, regardless of truth and fairness. Those are essentially the messages I had received my entire life--and no one was rushing to change them, that is, except myself.

I would not have known about these deeply ingrained beliefs until I stumbled upon information that not only revealed them to me but showed me different ways to live. You never know what you will learn when you decide to self-learn, that's part of the beauty of it all--you become completely enraptured in ideas that ring so true, yet are fresh and new to you. Even cliches aren't appreciated all that much until you choose to do so. Phrases like "This too shall pass" and "Life is too short" appear almost invisible and useless to some until that choice is made to learn about their value.

I don't think I ever want to be satisfied with what I know. Because (to drop another cliche) I don't know what I don't know. It keeps me humble and on my toes to know that I'll never be finished as a learner. In my opinion, it's not that anyone doesn't like to learn because everyone wants a resolution on some matter. They all want to know something, but maybe not what they have to know in accordance with someone else's wishes.

To close, consider this last quote by Alfred Mercier: "What we learn with pleasure we never forget."