The Art of Unlearning

“You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Said a little green creature most of us may fondly recall as Yoda.

For those not familiar with Star Wars, a science fiction film from the 70s, Yoda delivers this sagely advice to his pupil, Luke Skywalker, with regard to harnessing the energy of the universe often referred to as “The Force.”

I also encountered this concept of unlearning at art school through a brief introduction to The Bauhaus.

The Bauhaus was a German art and design school that ran from 1919 – 1933, founded by Walter Gropius. One of the core aims of the school was to liberate students from unconsciously and consciously acquired filters, much like we all develop as we go through life.  Students of The Bauhaus were trained to unlearn preconceived notions of what constitutes art to allow unhindered creative expression. This links into the idea that we are all born blank slates and what we learn is acquired through experience and perception.

From a young age we are taught to learn: language, movement, skills, knowledge, habits, opinions, attitudes – almost every aspect of our identity is a result of learning.

Throughout our formal education, the emphasis is also on learning. What we seem far less likely to learn, through these mainstream channels, is the skill to unlearn so that we may relearn differently. This allows us to be more flexible and adaptable which, especially in a world where my generation in particular is projected to change career no less than three times, would be a handy skill to possess.

As you go through your evening, your week, your month, your year – give pause to moments where you might be able to unlearn something that no longer serves you well.