Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Does One Become an Inspiring Mentor?

(a) Someone once asked Robert Newton Peck, a prolific writer of children's fiction, how to write a book. He responded, "Read a thousand books first".

(b) Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers" chronicles many cases of 10,000 hours of practice leading to mastery.

(c) Inspiration comes from "inspirare", "in the spirit". I'd like to quote briefly from an essay I am currently studying: "In many traditions, the word "spirit" refers to life-force, the basic energy of being. Symbolically, spirit is the breath of life. The Hebrew ruah, Greek pneuma, Latin spiritus, and Sanskrit prajna all mean both "breath" and "spirit." Traditionally, this life force is seen as manifest in our love--in the passions and inspirations that motivate us and connect us with the world and with one another.

"In this view, spirituality has to do with the fundamental propelling forces of our lives, our most profound loves, passions and concerns. It is the wellspring of our sense of meaning and of our will to live, the source of our deepest desires, values and dreams. Spirituality, then, is not a thing apart from our daily lives, but rather the fundamental energy source that fuels all our emotions, relationships, work, and everything else we consider meaningful."

Although I have only recently (within the past couple of years) come across these three pieces of information, I find they sum up quite nicely the steps I am taking to become more inspiring -- to myself, to my family, for all those in my stewardship. When I combine (a), (b) and (c), I come up with a few steps that have been helpful for me:

(1) If you want to be an inspiring mentor, take as many hours as possible to be inspired yourself, whatever that means to you. It might be worth starting by finding out what inspires you. For some, it is nature. For some art or music. For some, it is devoting time to their spiritual practices -- praying, meditating, reading scripture, serving others, visiting holy places...

Know what touches your heart and mind and soul -- what opens them, expands them, and leads them towards a longing for truth and further growth. Then schedule in some time every day for at least a passing experience with those things. Understand the process of being inspired. Open yourself to greatness every day.

(2) As time progresses, you will be led to do in-depth study of what inspires you. For some, that means research -- deeper reading of scripture, intense study of the biographies or artistic or service or work practices of those who inspire you -- who become *your* mentors, whether in person, or through their works and contributions to the world. For some, that means intense practice -- wielding a paintbrush or an instrument or a garden trowel or tools for serving others or spending much time in holy places. For some, it means both. Take the time to immerse yourself in such study and application.

(3) Know what touches your child's heart and mind and soul -- know what conditions need to exist for them feel inspired. This starts with an in-depth study of your child, and much practice of your relationship. Trust needs to be strengthened -- in some cases, established or re-established. I refer you to Diann Jeppson's TJEd Continuum diagram in the back of the Leadership Education book by the DeMilles for further information.

For some children, physical presence is needed -- much one on one time, or tickling, or hugs, or snuggling against their mother as they read. For some, it is much physical movement -- inspiration to do more, stretch more, attempt new things comes from running, or riding a bike, or tinkering with tools, building or discovering. Some children have passionate interest in something -- for my son, it was Star Trek -- so interest in THEIR interest, mastery knowledge of THEIR passion is the key to their heart, and then their mind. Find out what inspires your child, and if you can, find out how it inspires them, and why.

(4) Find ways to make your passion and what reaches your child overlap. You are not trying to change your child, to have them accept your interests instead of theirs, but to find ways to connect that which makes you feel alive, and that which touches them.

(5) Finally, one thing that I think has been well illustrated by recent posts is the importance of taking care of your physical well being in order to create fruitful conditions for your inspirational best self. Eat well, breathe well, sleep as you can to be able to have the energy and strength to carry through on the epiphanies (a-hahs) that come to you about how to reach your child or create a more inspirational environment or better train yourself to be both inspiring and inspired.

These are the bones. I hope others clothe them in the flesh of their own experiences.

Debi from Canada