"Learning to live and living to learn"
I am fast approaching one of those milestone birthdays that stick out like a sore thumb across one’s lifeline. I’m bracing myself for the salutations from family members, flung far and wide. I can hear them now; “Congratulations old man, whilst you may be over the hill, at least, as yet, you are not under it”.
It was with this in mind that I awoke in the early hours of the morning thinking back through the various phases I have gone through in my life, none of which I could have anticipated at the time. The earliest memorable phase was in my mid-to-late teens when I went through my “emo” phase. Rather stereotypically, I was very much “into poetry, man”. Oh yes, back then, apart from my rather desperate, yet fruitless, attempts to attract the fairer sex, it was the mechanics of the iambic pentameter and dactylic hexameter that fuelled my fundamental motivations. In retrospect, it is not so surprising that “the ladies” gave me a wide berth. But now, looking back, the immortal words of Robert Frost ring out, as they do for many who, like me stand ready to accept the title “elderly” - Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Now, Lily, the (dog who must be adored), is a very happy dog as you would expect. I mean, wouldn’t you feel a sense of extreme contentment if you were the object of adoration both day and night? But I don’t think that is real source of her fulfilment. You see, Lily is a dog and she is just happy being a dog. She doesn’t strive to be anything but what she is because she is fully ceased of her fundamental motivations, in being a dog.
I have the enormous privilege of helping people find their way in life and although for each person, the challenges are unique, for those starting out in their careers, the hill before them can seem more like an insurmountable mountain. Often, a young student will confide by asking, “How can I decide on what to do when I don’t have any experience to act as a frame of reference?” Sometimes, if appropriate, I will counter with, “perhaps asking – what do I want to do? – is the wrong question. Perhaps the right question is to ask, “what do I like doing?” This reframing of the question from the present simple to present continuous tense, I suggest, is more likely to lead to identifying one’s fundamental motivations and therein lies the road ahead. It would not be unusual for a student, these days, to respond with something like: “I like watching Netflix, but where is the career in that?” And I will ask: “yes, but why do you like watching Netflix? What is it that excites you about such a prospect?” The probing will continue in a similar vein until we reach the bottom of the well. For there we will find the seeds of talent from which, with a little encouragement, care and attention, we will see the prospect of future growth and personal development.
The process of identifying your fundamental motivations is something we all go through at various phases in our lives and if we do so with positivity and a willingness to learn, we will, like Lily, find happiness in being ourselves.
Key learning: Find your inner motivation as you climb your own Mount Olympus……..and stay clear of rhythm and meter in English poetry if you want attract the opposite sex.