learning from within-- who can help?

by Terry Fewtrell

Learning from within- who can help?

Recently I heard two wonderful stories of personal motivation and achievement. Both were inspiring and full of the best of the human spirit and endeavour.

One was listening, spellbound with 500 others, to Mao’s last dancer, Li Cunxin. Critical to the story was how a teacher helped him to realise what really motivated him. It is a story on agrand and global scale that has been abestselling book and box office hit. The other was a story closer to home about the workundertaken by the Canberra communityorganisation Menslink, in providing mentoring help to young men in the Canberra community. In this case a young man changed the direction of his life, largely due to the influence and help of another man in the community, whomentored and modelled behaviours that showed him how to take a different path in life.

In one case the story had international dimensions. In the other the context was very local and suburban. For each person the outcome has been profound in terms of the lives that they now pursue and their life opportunities. But in other ways the stories were the same: the influence that another human being can have on the lives of someone who is open to the challenges and thinking of a concerned and committed ‘other’.

In the business world and in professional development terms we call it ‘coaching’, Executive Coaching or sometimes, Life Coaching. In each case it involves working with an experienced and professional other person to discover things about ourselves that we have not yet learned fully. It involves a process of openness to learning and a willingness to look deeply within ourselves to discover such things as, in the case of Li Cunxin, the values that are really important to us. This is the
real power of coaching – that it ultimately is learning about the self, by the self. It was the 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote: “You must become who you are.” This is a powerful challenge to us all. But first we must discover who we really are and want to be. After that comes the ‘how’. This is a journey of discovery that we must all make for ourselves. But like much in
the human condition, the irony is that others can help us on that journey. A good coach is one such helper -a person who can help us discover the strengths that we have and the areas where we need to build strengths.

Knowledge and learning are vitally important today. We live in an information rich world. But education is something different. It is the opposite to the image of taking in information and in a sense ‘filling up’ the person. The real meaning of education, according to its Latin origins, is to ‘lead out of’ (e duce) the person, the real knowledge and capabilities they can contribute. The implication and reality is that our real learning is within us. And such a process implies an ‘other’. Who do you have as that ‘other’ person – a mentor or coach? Do you take the time to tap into the purpose and power that you have within you? And who do you have to help you put that contribution to good use? -- to become who you really are.

Terry Fewtrell is Strategic Analyst with Yellow Edge.