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Boost your life skills

Feb 16 2014 10:13
*Ian Mann
Rise & Shine: A personal development journal toward awakening self-discovery and inspired living, by Andi Saitowitz

WE ARE seeing ever more people employed as knowledge workers, people who “think for a living”. Their main capital is themselves and their ability to produce through their application of knowledge and skill to the task. It is unlikely that this trend will change in the near future.

This explains the growing awareness of the need for mentoring and coaching, since I am the means of production.

Popularly, the terms have lost their original meaning and now mean their literal opposite.

In Greek mythology, Mentor is a proper noun. It is the name of the man to whom Odysseus entrusted his son Telemachus when he left for the Trojan War. Mentor’s task was to raise the boy as his father would have done.

From “Mentor,” we get “mentoring.” A coach, on the other hand, used to have the exclusive meaning of instructor or trainer in a sport.

Today, mentors are more likely to be used when referring to the transfer or upgrading of skills, much as one might use a tennis coach to improve your backhand. Coaching today has the wider context encompassing the personal aspects of work.  

Most people would benefit from having some coaching, but time and cost make this difficult.

Rise & Shine is a useful substitute in the absence of a personal coach. It is a workbook that covers a wide range of issues that could be of significance to the reader. The topics covered focus on personal life and functioning.

Since knowledge workers’ performance is so deeply affected by their personal life and functioning, the book has relevance to professionals and business people.

What distinguishes this accessible book from other self-help texts is its format. It is a guided journal for you to complete. It includes motivational exhortations and inspirational snippets.

For example, on the topic of reframing experiences, the author offers formulae. In line with Nietzsche’s insight that given a reason a person can put up with extreme discomfort, Saitowitz offers the formula: “A challenge that I endure – any meaning or purpose I can take from this = despair and suffering.”

To understand fear, and to put it in perspective, she offers the formula “A lack of control X the unknown = fear”.

The formulas gain relevance from the exercises that follow, such as the one relating to that which we fear. The reader is guided to list what he knows about the fearsome situation, what he does not know about it, and what he can do about it.

Some time back an older man, who was close to retirement, told me of a book he was reading entitled When all you ever wanted isn’t enough. I have no doubt he would have benefited had he worked through the chapter titled “Vision” a decade earlier.

The chapter is a guide to describing how you wish your life to be in five years. There are 15 questions to answer. Included are: “How do I spend my time and with whom? What do I bring to my career and relationships? How is my fitness, health and shape? Whose life do I touch?”

What I found most useful was the chapter on rating the current state of your life. The exercise uses the form of a wheel with each spoke representing a life segment. There are spokes for self-discipline, achievements, energy, career, and finance to hobbies, community life, and relationships. The length of each spoke represents your satisfaction level with that element of your life.

Having a wheel with spokes of various lengths gives a visual indication of the areas that you consider unsatisfactory.

A regular reminder of how you are doing in the multiple aspects of life is necessary, especially when our work life demands so much of our time and energy. In the past work was a place one went to in the morning and came home from in the late afternoon.

Today work is an activity one performs at home, at the office, in the hotel, in the plane, and in the car on the way to a workplace.

This is probably the most compelling reason for taking personal development literature more seriously.

Saitowitz’s manual is an accessible tool that will benefit those who have not given the “softer” issues of life much thought lately. 

Readability:       Light +---- Serious
Insights:             High --+-- Low
Practical :           High +---- Low

 - Fin24

*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy. Views expressed are his own.

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